- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

SEOUL President Kim Dae-jung expressed concern yesterday about growing anti-Americanism in South Korea and ordered his Cabinet to "improve" rules governing 37,000 U.S. soldiers stationed here.

Many South Koreans are angry after U.S. military courts last month acquitted two American soldiers charged with negligent homicide in a traffic accident that killed two Korean teenage girls.

President Bush apologized for the accident, but that failed to stop protesters, who have staged sometimes violent demonstrations. Some broke into U.S. military installations or threw firebombs. There have been no injuries.

"Sound criticism of U.S. policies can be accepted, but indiscriminate anti-Americanism is not helpful for our national interest," Mr. Kim told a Cabinet meeting.

"Illegal, violent demonstrations can never be justified under any circumstances, so the government will strictly deal with them by law."

Mr. Kim ordered his Cabinet to "work out measures to improve the status-of-forces agreement governing U.S. soldiers to prevent a recurrence of similar cases."

He said his defense minister, Lee Jun, will discuss the issue when he meets Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld in Washington this week for annual security consultations.

Thirty-one legislators introduced a resolution in parliament urging another revision of the status-of-forces agreement, one that would give South Korea more jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers involved in criminal cases.

About 60 Protestant Christians, led by a white-robed minister holding a large wooden cross, marched toward the U.S. Embassy after a roadside rally in the center of Seoul yesterday.

At a public park a block from the embassy, 20 Roman Catholic priests continued a hunger strike for a second day to protest the acquittals.

"For me, this is like a national independence movement," said the Rev. Rah Seung-goo, who was wrapped in a blanket.

Activists and entertainers also promised to organize large-scale protests.

Sgts. Mark Walker and Fernando Nino were in an armored vehicle that hit and killed two 13-year-old Korean girls Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun during a training exercise near the border with North Korea on June 13.

Meanwhile a court in southern Japan issued a warrant yesterday for the arrest of a U.S. Marine officer for purportedly attempting to rape a woman, police said.

The police asked the U.S. military to hand over Maj. Michael J. Brown, 39, assigned to Camp Courtney on Okinawa island, a police spokesman said.

After the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen, which outraged Okinawans, the United States agreed to be more flexible in handing over criminal suspects to Japanese authorities.

More than half of the 47,000 American military personnel in Japan are stationed on Okinawa, 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide