The Guardian June 28, 2000


Confrontations at Korean bombing range

Hundreds of protesters opposed to a US bombing range in South Korea 
clashed with riot police leaving dozens of people hurt. Most of those 
injured during the demonstration received blows from riot police wielding 
batons and shields. 

Protesters, who included local inhabitants, radical students and union 
members, tore down fencing around the Koon-Ni range which is 80 kms south 
of Seoul and is used by the US air force for bombing and target practice.

About 500 protesters breached police cordons inside Koon-Ni to get onto the 
facility and started shouting: "Destroy the base."

Anger built up during the day as police put up blockades to stop about 
3,000 demonstrators getting near the range to stage a rally.

Students and other radical demonstrators then climbed over nearby hills to 
get to the perimeter fence. About 1,000 police were deployed inside the 
perimeter in a failed attempt to keep out demonstrators.

Opponents chanted "Yankee Go Home" and "We don't need US troops here." Some 
banners highlighted the success of the inter-Korean summit as a new reason 
for the US forces to go home.

Local villagers are demanding the relocation of the range, which opened 
during the 1950-53 Korean War. They have rejected government offers to be 
relocated.

They say that at least nine people have died in accidents linked to the 
facility, including four children who were playing with an unexploded bomb. 
Exploding bombs and noise from US warplanes have caused roofs to cave in, 
cracked walls and left many residents with hearing problems, they say.

Plagued by noise

"We have been plagued by noise for 50 years. We cannot endure it any 
longer," said Oh Moyong-Hwang, a 44-year-old farmer who lives near the 
range.

Even before Kim Dae-Jung's three day visit to Pyongyang, which produced a 
landmark accord to take measures to improve relations, the US military had 
faced mounting public criticism over the social impact of their presence. 
The US maintains 37,000 troops, 20 bases and operates several ranges in the 
South.

However, South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung defended the presence of the 
US troops in South Korea during his meeting with North Korean President Kim 
Jong-Il.

Political pressure is now expected to mount, however, after the summit as 
the South Korean public are given greater freedom to show friendship toward 
the North.

North Korea has been demanding the withdrawal of US forces ever since the 
Korean War was halted with an armistice, but never formally ended.

US occupation excuses

The Pentagon is already finding excuses to continue its occupation of South 
Korea even after reunification. A statement by the Defense Press Service 
says that "the United States is encouraged by the accord signed by the 
Presidents of South and North Korea, but that no US troop reductions in 
South Korea are contemplated.

Referring to a future summit between the two Presidents, Bacon said, "I 
think we just have to wait to see how events unfold."

Preparing the justification for the continued stay of American troops, 
Bacon said that North Korea continues to have a large well-armed force 
deployed close to the demilitarized zone and spends a disproportionate 
share of its gross national product on the military.

Instead of branding North Korea and other opponents of the US as "rogue 
states", Madeleine Albright has now decided that they will be termed, 
"states of concern".

Back to index page