- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

From combined dispatches
SEOUL President Bush apologized to the South Korean people yesterday for a road accident in which a U.S. Army vehicle crushed two schoolgirls to death, prompting anti-American demonstrations.
The accident in June, and the court-martial acquittal of the vehicle's driver and navigator last week, sparked street protests and calls for the withdrawal of 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.
The emotive court case concluded as South Korea and the United States were grappling with North Korea's newly revealed nuclear arms program, which requires a delicate balancing of interests between Seoul and Washington.
At a special news conference yesterday after days of protest, including the student firebombing of a U.S. Army base, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Hubbard offered Mr. Bush's apology.
"President Bush, who has visited Korea and has a special feeling for the Korean people, has been touched by this tragedy," Mr. Hubbard said.
"Just this morning, the president sent me a message asking me to convey his apologies to the families of the girls, to the government of the Republic of Korea and to the people of Korea."
The accident, in which the two 13-year-olds were crushed by a mine-clearing vehicle while walking on a village road near the heavily fortified border with North Korea, have prompted apologies from several U.S. commanders as well as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
The two soldiers left South Korea yesterday, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Sgt. Mark Walker of the 2nd Infantry Division will move on to a new assignment, while Sgt. Fernando Nino is leaving the Army, deciding not to re-enlist, Lt. Col. Steven Boylan said.
In statements released yesterday, the two soldiers apologized to the families of the two girls, Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun. The U.S. government gave a total of $323,000 in compensation to the families of the victims.
South Korea's political parties welcomed Mr. Bush's apology, but called for the revision of a joint military accord to help ease anti-U.S. sentiments. But some people said Mr. Bush's apology was not enough to assuage anger in South Korea.
"Bush must apologize personally and publicly, not through his ambassador," 300 activists chanted at a rally yesterday near the main U.S. military base in central Seoul. "Let's bring the murderous U.S. soldiers to our court."
Col. Boylan said 14,000 soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division were told before the trials not to leave their bases after 10 p.m. because of fears of violence. Previously, they were allowed to stay out two or three hours longer.

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