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Statement on the death of two middle-school girls run over by an American armored vehicle

The Human Rights Committee of the National Council of Churches in Korea strongly demands that the USFK make its utmost efforts to establish specific policies and guarantee the disclosure of the truth, to ensure full protection in any future such cases.




On June 13 of this year, middle-school students Shim Mi-Sun and Shin Hyo-Soon were crushed to death by anarmored vehicle of the United States Forces Korea (USFK) during a training exercise in Uijongbu, Kyonggi Province. In every case of accident or crime involving the US military forces in South Korea, the USFK have tried to suppress rather than accurately reveal the true facts of the incident. In the investigation process, the Korean prosecution and police have excluded and ignored the opinion and feelings of the bereaved families, only protecting the US parties.


The high-handed attitude of the USFK has caused imbalance of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Under the unequal terms of the agreement, Korea has had no jurisdiction over many cases such as that of Yoon Kum-Ee, a young woman killed by a US soldier, and that of Cheon Dong-rok who was electrocuted to death by a high-voltage wire on a US military base. We cannot imagine the pain of the victims and suffering of the bereaved families.


Civil and human rights groups are demanding revision of the SOFA, and the eradication of crimes by US troops in Korea. They have established the National Task-force Committee and held demonstrations in front of the US Embassy in downtown Seoul and the US Second Infantry Division in Uijongbu, Kyonggi Province. Urging disclosure of the truth, punishment of the Commander of the US Forces in Korea, and acknowledgement of responsibility for the homicide, they are requesting that the USFK waive jurisdiction of the case, and that an apology be issued by President Bush.


With the bereaved families and the National Task-force Committee strongly speaking out, the USFK prosecuted Sgts. Fernando Nino and Mark Walker for the homicide. On July 19, Daniel R. Zanini, General Commander of the Eighth United Stated Army, expressed his sadness and acknowledged responsibility in this case, during the inauguration of Russel L. Ohnore as new General Commander of the US Second Infantry Division. Russel L. Ohnore also expressed his regret and apologized for the "terrible accident".


After the accident, soldiers of the US Second Infantry Division raised a fund of only US$10,000 to give to the bereaved families. By providing this small amount of money, the USFK tried to close the case. In its report of July 20, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Korea announced the decision to give compensation in the amount of 196,260,000 Won to thefamily of Shin Hyo-Soon, and 195,450,000 Won to the family of Shim Mi-Sun. According to the terms of SOFA, the proportion of this compensation to be paid by the US military and the Korean government is 75% and 25%, respectively. In view of the earlier attitude of the USFK, this is regarded as a tremendous achievement gained through the continuous and determined efforts of civic and human rights groups.


The Human Rights Committee of the National Council of Churches in Korea strongly demands that the USFK make its utmost efforts to establish specific policies and guarantee the disclosure of the truth, to ensure full protection in any future such cases.


The USFK must waive its jurisdiction and allow the Korean authorities to jointly conduct the investigation. Further, the two countries must work together to revise the SOFA in the very near future. In addition, US President George W. Bush should officially apologize for the death of the two young girls, declaring respect for world peace and the dignity of lives.


We strongly urge the Korean government to take positive action to formulate just policies and seek adequate means of protecting civilians from injury during military training exercises in Korea.


July 22, 2002

(Rev.) Paik Do-Woong
General Secretary
The National Council of Churches in Korea

(Rev.) Kim Jeom-Myung
Chairperson, Human Rights Committee
The National Council of Churches in Korea

2002 / -1 / 1-
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