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Oct. 23  2018
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Civic groups, local residents rally near U.S. Koon-ni training range

Thousands of civic group members and residents living near the controversial U.S. Koon-ni training range held a protest yesterday, demanding the facility's closure and compensation for damage and suffering resulting from decades of drills.

Source  :  Korea Herald

Thousands of civic group members and residents living near the controversial U.S. Koon-ni training range held a protest yesterday, demanding the facility's closure and compensation for damage and suffering resulting from decades of drills.

Clashes with riot police during the demonstration left several participants with minor injuries, villagers said.

Some 2,000 people, including local residents, civic and labor group members and university students, gathered for the rally at about 1 p.m. in the west coast village of Maehyang-ri in Hwasong, Kyonggi Province, 50 miles southwest of Seoul.

After the rally, the participants formed a 1-km "human chain"from Maehyang-ri village to the main gate of the U.S. Air Force's Koon-ni training range.

They refrained from forcibly occupying Nong Island, where the U.S. military bombing range is located.

"Originally, we were planning to occupy Nong Island yesterday to protest the government's insufficient follow-up measures, but we decided to put off the occupation plan in hopes of solving the problem in a peaceful manner," said Han Seong-sook, an anti-nuclear activist for the Korea Federation for Environmental Movement.

The Koon-ni range, granted to U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in 1955, covers a 23.73 million sq. meter sea and land area, with one bombing range on Nong Island, off the coast of Maehyang-ri village, and one strafing or firing range on the coast near Maehyang-ri.

In the rally, the participants issued a statement calling for the closure of the range.

They demanded the National Assembly reinvestigate the Maehyang-ri incident, while also calling for the launch of a joint probe of the case by government and civic group officials and the immediate release of Chon Man-kyu, head of the committee representing Maehyang-ri residents.

South Korean riot police took Chon into custody last Friday for tearing down a red flag that signals the imminent release of bombs at the range and trespassing on the facility.

After a 19-day suspension, bombing training was briefly resumed at the Koon-ni range Friday. Owing to repeated threats by civic groups and local residents to forcibly occupy the bombing range, however, training was once again suspended until today. USFK will likely extend the training suspension to June 14, when the historic inter-Korean summit ends.

Responding to noise complaints, the Defense Ministry and USFK said Monday they are considering moving the Koon-ni strafing range from the coast near Maehyang-ri onto the tidal flats off Nong Island.

The ministry also said it would proceed with a plan starting this year to relocate local residents living near the U.S. facility on an individual basis, provided they accept the idea.
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