PSPD l People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
Maehyang-ri: From a Firing Range to a Test Ground for Human Rights and International Justice
- 2000.10.31 (00:00:00)
From a Firing Range to a Test Ground for Human Rights and International JusticeNational Action Committee for the Closure of the Maehyang-ri U.S. Armed Forces International Bombing Range (August 15, 2000).
On May 8, 2,000, one of three U.S. Air Force A-10 aircrafts en route to training range near Kunsan from Osan Air Base developed engine trouble causing the pilot to abandon the bombs on board to reduce flight weight. Six 500-pound bombs were abandoned into the sea near Nong-do, off the coast of village called Maehyang-ri.
Villagers claimed the explosion caused damages to 700 homes and injuries to a number of people. In response to the alarmed and frightened complaints and demands of the villagers, the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea officially denied that any real damage had resulted from the accidental bombing.
Following a joint probe of the accident, South Korean and U.S. investigators announced in early June that the accident had caused no ‘direct’ injuries or damage to villagers or their homes near the U.S. Air Force facility. The usual and casual denial of what the villagers know as reality -- for the last fifty years -- provoked long pent-up anger.
“Maehyang-ri” has emerged as a volatile focal point of Korea-U.S. relations. The issue has been smouldering ever since the area was appropriated as the “bombing and firing practice range” for the U.S. Armed Forces in the Far East. The May 8 incident shocked and reawakened Maehyang-ri villagers to the constant danger of the firing range which they had as their permanent neighbour. Maehyang-ri is home to some 3,200 villagers exposed to unending plight and harassment by constant extreme noise, fatal accidents arising from “stray” bombing and firing, and environmental contamination and impact. In May 2000, it “exploded” to grip the entire Korean society and people as the “heart of the matter” in the issues of human rights, justice, respect, and sovereignty that have plagued the relationship between the U.S. and Korea over the question of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea.
“Maehyang-ri” has become the test ground for the issues of relations between the two sovereign nations of Korea and the U.S., human rights and safety of Korean people, the nature and content of the “Status of Forces Agreement” which governs the presence of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea, the general issue of U.S. troops in Korea, and even the integrity of the Korean government.
Where is Maehyang-ri and what is happening there?
Maehyang-ri is a village in Hwasong-kun (county) of Kyongki-do (province), located 80 kilometers southwest of Seoul. 3,200 villagers (used to) make their living by rice farming and harvesting crab, oyster, octopus, and other fisheries from the sea, which have been an important source of income for generations.
But, their home -- their land and their sea -- has been taken over since 1951-2 as the “home” for the U.S. Air Force’s Kooni Range. Since then, and until now, over 24 square kilometers of sea and land, ever since the time of the Korean War when it had been appropriated, has been the “bombing and firing practice” range for the U.S. Air Force and allied forces.
The Kooni Range is composed of a bombing range for bomber planes on the Nong-do island (which can be reached on foot during low tide) off the coast and a strafing range on the edge of the village. U.S. Air Force fighter jets and bombers, such as F-16, A-10, and OV-10, not only from the U.S. Air Force based in Korea, but also in Okinawa, Thailand, Guam, and the Philippines swoop on Maehyang-ri to drop their bombs and spray their bullets on the targets in the range in bombing practice and gunnery drills. The bombing and firing take place throughout the daylight hours and even until late at night for 250 days a year, stopping only for weekends and holidays.
Maehyang-ri: a free testing site for private military-industrial complex
Recently, people of Maehyang-ri learned that the overall management of the bombing and firing range has been contracted out to a military-industry complex, Lockheed Martin. The company, one of the largest weapons and military equipment maker in the world, which has Korea as one of its top ten “customers”, is suspected of using the bombing and firing range as its “testin g” site for many of its deadly products. The Maehyang-ri villagers, in one of the tense clashes with police in their attempts to stop the bombing and strafing at the range, has pulled down the company’s announcement board at the site.
Villagers are required to pay rent for the use of the land in the outlaying areas of the range for agricultural cultivation. This contrasts starkly with the fact that the U.S. Armed Forces, which “uses” the range, and the Lockheed Martin, which also “uses” the range for its own purposes, do not pay anything for the use of the land or any of utilities supplied to them.
Maehyang-ri and Vieques
The May 8 incident in Maehyang-ri brought the U.S. military bombing range into Korean society’s and international attention, just as the April 19, 1999 “inciden t” in Vieques, Puerto Rico, drew attention of the U.S. society and international media to the suffering of the over 9,400 residents of Vieques.
There are many similarities between Maehyang-ri and Vieques. At the same time there are some important differences. They are both dramatic examples of plight of local people under the devastating impact of the endless bombing and firing. They are where the military prowess of the U.S. is horned to maintain its supreme preeminent status in the world. In the process, the U.S. Armed Forces -- Navy in Vieques and Air Force in Maehyang-ri -- the rights and livelihood of the village people living near the bombing and firing training range are just ignored. The impunity with which the U.S. continues to ignore the rights and livelihood of the people have, in both Maehyang-ri and Vieques, given rise to a clear perception and understanding of the dominating status the U.S. has in each country.
Unlike Vieques, where the U.S. government responded -- even if in a deceitful and manipulating way -- promptly to the demands and actions of the village people and other groups involved in the issue, the U.S. continues to reject even to consider the situation. The U.S. President Clinton himself made statements about the situation, a body was set up to review the situation, and a proposal to remove the range by 2003 and offer of a compensation of 40 million dollars is being aired. The Vieques people rejected this “offer” claiming that it is merely a stalling tactic and overt bribe which may pave the way for the U.S. Navy to resume its usual habit of flouting agreements (as it did with the 1983 “memorandum of understanding”).
In Korea, however, the U.S. continues a campaign of silence, disregard, and arrogance. It denies that there are any damages, or that people have legitimate claim, or that it has any responsibility. The truth is that, even if some damages are caused by the U.S. Armed Forces, it is not liable to provide compensation or reparation, because the “agreement” between the U.S. and Korea defining the status of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea, relieves the U.S. of any responsibility or liability. In both Maehyang-ri and Vieques, the U.S. military refuses to recognise its liability and responsibility to restore the damages to and destruction of environment and ecology.
Second class citizens: colonial treatment
One significant difference lies in that people of Vieques is, as a part of Puerto Rico, regarded as citizens of equal right under the U.S. law and institutions. As a result, the U.S. laws concerning environment and other issues can be applied to the U.S. Navy practices. The problem lies in that the people of Vieques and Puerto Rico as a whole are treated as second class citizens. On the other hand, people of Maehyang-ri are deprived of the recourse to the Korean laws and institutions to assert their rights, because the behaviour of the U.S. military is off limits for the Korean laws on the basis of the circumvention of the Korean authority under the special arrangement of the Status of Forces Agreement.
The similarity in the difference, however, is the old tactic of presenting a “plan” to do something by some date in future. People in Maehyang-ri and Vieques know very well that “future date” does not ever come. Another tactic, of course, is to present a proposal that divides the people, and use the division as an excuse for not doing anything, and continuing on with the bombing.
The most importance similarity between Maehyang-ri and Vieques is that in both places the village people are united in their demand for the immediate closure of the ranges. The groups involved in the campaign know also very well that the effort to undo damages to the environment and the habitat of the area and the lives and livelihood of the people is an enormous one. This is where the issue of “compensation” and “reparation” is vital. Just leaving would not solve the problem. The U.S. must own up to its responsibility to undo the damage and the injustice in both Vieques and Maehyang-ri.
The Deadly Impact
In Maehyang-ri, playing children and working farmers have seen and lived with the ‘star wars’ and ‘top gun’ ambitions of the U.S. Air Force pilots. Fighter jets and bomber planes, in “daredevil” flying and shooting sprees, have ceaselessly skimmed over rooftops and treetops in their low-flying bombing and firing training over the last fifty years. This has produced a strange lifestyle for 3,200 villagers of Maehyang-ri.
The villagers have little to do during the weekdays when U.S. Air Force fighters and bombers fly low in the sky producing thunderous roars from early morning untill night and firing guns at targets just several hundred meters away from homes and fields or dropping bombs on an island about a mile offshore.
They must wait for the weekends to tend their rice paddies and vegetable fields or to go out to the sea to catch crabs and oysters. While 80% of villagers depend on the sea to generate their income, they are deprived of most of the sea for most of the time due to the continuous bombing on Nong-do island. They are not allowed to go out into the sea during training periods. Furthermore, the contamination of the sea and the unbearable noise from the continuous bombing have caused severe damage to sea life.
The Kooni U.S. Air Force bombing and firing practice range has become the source and cause of serious health problems, physical damages, and suffering and degradation of life. A recent study by the “Council of Physicians for Humanitarian Medical Practice” (June 2000) revealed some of the more easily discernable aspects of the impact of having the bombing and firing range as a neighbour.
The scientific study has confirmed that Maehyang-ri village people suffer from hearing impairment and lead poisoning. The Council of Physicians for Humanitarian Medical Practice revealed that 28 out of 30 Maehyang-ri residents tested had much poorer hearing than 30 test subjects from Chugok-ri, which is slightly further away from the range.
The hearing ability of Maehyang-ri people declined noticeably at 4,000 hertz and below, a characteristic symptom of noise-related hearing impairment. The hearing impairment of 7.1% of the villagers was deemed to be severe enough to be considered an “occupational disease.” A preliminary survey by scientists of environmental movement organisations found that the noise level in Maehyang-ri averaged around 90 to 120 dB. In 1988, a study of the situation by the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea -- in response to continuous petition and complaint by the villagers of the situation -- found noise level to reach 150 dB.
Heavy metal contamination and poisoning
The same study by the Humanitarian Physicians found that the blood lead level of Maehyang-ri people was 1.7 times higher than the average rate among steel factory workers, who are normally known to be highly susceptible to lead poisoning.
A study by an environmental group found that the soil of Maehyang-ri was highly contaminated with dangerous metal and non-ferrous materials, such as, arsenic (13 times the average), cadmium (37 times the average), copper (13 times the average), and lead (145 times the average).
Two out of the 10 women in the Maehyang-ri group (who were examined by the Humanitarian Physicians) were found to have suffered “abnormal” miscarriages, while no such case was reported among the 16 female test subjects in the Chugok-ri group.
Maehyang-ri residents registered an average of 53.2 out of a total of 135 points in a stress test. This stands in contrast to the average of 35.3 recorded by the nearby Chugok-ri residents which fall in the normal range for healthy people of between 31.3 and 43.5. The high and constant stress has produced in villagers a greater tendency to suffer from negative emotions, like anger, anxiety, and fear.
The villagers’ sleeping habit -- an important factor for a healthy life -- is also found to be severely affected by the constant bombing. Maehyang-ri residents reportedly wake an average of 0.82 times per night. This is about three times more than for villagers in Chugok-ri. The study also found that they had difficulty falling asleep on an average of 1.57 days a week, more than twice the figure for Chugok-ri residents.
Life and learning disabilities
Apart from the more noticeable effects, such as, hearing impairment, insecurity and anxiety, inability to sleep, decrease in general capacity, heavy metal poisoning, birth of deformed babies, and miscarriages, the people and children suffer from generally unstable life. For example, the learning capacity of Maehyang-ri children would be conspicuously damaged and undeveloped as a result of multifaceted effects of the generally high and prevalent stressful environment. The noise and other factors have damaging negative impact on character formation and emotional development of children.
The high stress -- and the general failure to make normal living -- is perceived as the primary cause for unusually high incidences of suicide among the villagers. A total of 32 persons have committed suicide. No clear immediate reasons have been found for the 19 cases.
Animals suffer too
The impact of the constant bombing found in human life is also found among animals. The villagers, unable to harvest the rich fisheries in the sea and unable to maintain farming as they cannot tend to their fields during the bombing and strafing runs, have turned to animal breeding.
However, they found their animals -- milk cows, chicken, goat, rabbit, ostrich, etc. -- suffer in the same way as human beings. Villagers have seen high incidences of abnormal miscarriage, undeveloped breeding habits, and low quantity of milk in their animals. This has, of course, further frustrated their attempts to find different source of livelihood and income.
Fatal to life, homes, and houses
Stray bullets and bombs have hit human beings leading to fatalities. 12 persons are known to have died hit by stray bombs or machine gun bullets. 13 have received serious irrevocable injuries, like amputated legs. Villagers also claim that apart from the death by stray bombs and bullets, most of the suicides were result of mental illness brought on by the noise of the training range.
The reverberating impact of bomb explosion and machine gun strafing has caused untold damage to houses and facilities in village. Most of the houses in the area are in precarious and pitiful state due to cracked walls and broken windows resulting from constant bombardment.
Most recently, on May 8, 2,000, when six 500-pound live bombs were dropped into the sea nearby the Nong-do island by a U.S. Air Force A-10 plane to reduce flying weight as it developed engine trouble, some 200 homes were damaged -- rooftops collapsed, windows shattered, and walls damaged, and a number of people were injured.
Maehyang-ri People’s Fifty-Year Struggle
A Brief history
The first recorded action by the Maehyang-ri villagers to draw attention on their plight took place on July 4, 1988 (coinciding with the American independence day and the anniversary of a historic joint communiqu by south and north Korea in 1972). 612 villagers, led by Chon Mahn-kyu -- a name that has been constantly associated with the struggle of Maehyang-ri people reemerging again in May 2000 -- signed and presented a petition to the Ministry of Defense.
This was to be the start of more than 10 official petitions to the Korean government and the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea and the deepening frustration of the village people and their own direct understanding of the nature of the U.S. in Korea.
The Ministry responded about three weeks later urging the villages to wait patiently as it would approach the U.S. Armed Forces to eliminate damages by noise. Four months later, in November, the U.S. Armed Forces officially acknowledge that there has been damage resulting from noise at the Kooni Range following its own investigation. At the time, the investigators found that the noise level reached, at the worst, 150 dB.
On December 12, four months after the presentation of their petition, the villagers, angered by the lack of any genuine response from either the Korean or the U.S. Armed Forces authorities to their complaint and demands, “trespassed” into the practice range and built an occupation camp. This was the first time a U.S. firing range facility was occupied while training was in process.
The villagers put forward three demands: move the Air Force bombing and firing practice range to an uninhabited area, prepare an official plan for the residents to move to another area, and set up a joint body involving the representatives of the villagers, the Ministry of Defense, and the 7th U.S. Air Force stationed in Korea, to produce a reparation and compensation package for the villagers.
By the end of a week of occupation, the Ministry of Defense informed the villagers that the Korean government had, in compliance with the article 3 of the SOFA2) made a request to the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea to reduce the noise level, to avoid low flying bombing practice, to move the machine gun strafing training to another practice range, suspension of firing practices at night during normal sleeping hours, and to change the course of jet fighters and bombers approaching the practice range.
The villagers found the response from the Korean government unsatisfactory and intended only to placate the villagers demands without any effort to resolve the nearly four decades of suffering.
Deceit (Korean government) and arrogance (U.S. Armed Forces in Korea)
On April 28, 1989, nearly one year after the initial petition, the Vice-Minister for Defense invited village representatives to a meeting with Ministry officials, National Assemblyman representing the electoral district which covered Maehyang-ri, and local municipal government officials. The meeting was organised to explain to the villagers what the important role the U.S. troops have in Korea.
The officials tried to make the villagers understand that such a bombing and firing practice range was needed to make sure the U.S. Air Force and its personnel were battle-ready. The Vice-Minister explained that the government was engaged in discussions with the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea to bring about a long term plan for the relocation of the practice range to another area. And that it was undertaking a consultation with the U.S. military authorities to minimise the noise level as a short-term measure. However, the Ministry of Defense asserted that it was impossible to provide any compensation for the damage by noise as there was no criteria for ascertaining the compensation and legal grounds to implement any compensation.
In November 1989, the Ministry of Defense -- when requested to provide information on its efforts on behalf of the demands of the villagers -- informed the villagers that consultation with the U.S. military authorities to reduce the noise level was continuing and that there was a principle agreement with the U.S. authorities to move the range to another area and that this would begin to take place in 1990.
In March 1990, two National Assemblymen obtained a report of the Ministry of Defense which stated that an agreement was reached between the Korean and the U.S. authorities on Many 22, 1989, to move the practice range to another area. In order to bring about the transfer, the Korean government was to secure a budget of 60 billion won from 1992 to 1996 to move the practice range to newly reclaimed land.
However, unknown to any villagers or even the concerned National Assemblymen, the “agreement” with the U.S. military authorities to relocate the practice range to another area was, in fact, abandoned and nullified due to the opposition by the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea. This fact became known only in March 2000 from an investigative report by a television network.
In October 1996, when it became known that the practice range was not moving out of Maehyang-ri -- that the Korean government’s assurance to the villagers had turned out to be a lie -- 712 villagers led by Chon Mahn-kyu filed another petition with the government.
In January 1997, the Ministry of Defense released a report on the petitions it had received. According to the report, the cost of relocating the 740 households (2,700 people) to another area was cheaper (by 90 billion won) than relocating the bombing and firing range (which was estimated to be 150 billion won). As a result, the Ministry of Defense reported that it was working in the direction of preparing a package for moving the residents out of their villages.
Having learned about the thinking and plan of the Ministry of Defense through its obligatory report to the National Assembly, the villagers taskforce demanded a joint taskforce working group, involving the representatives of villagers, the Ministry of Defense, the U.S. Armed Forces, and some mediators. This demand did not produce any results as it fell on the deaf ears of the Korean government and the U.S. military authorities.
In the absence of any progress on their demands, in February 1998, 15 village representatives of the 10 villages in the vicinity of the bombing and firing range filed a legal suit for compensation.
In November 1998, the Ministry of Defense informed the villagers that it would initiate a preparation to facilitate the relocationg of villagers out of the area if the Hwasung-kun authorities came forward with a consensus position of the entire members of the villages. In response, the villagers presented a position which called for immediate relocation of 200 household from one village on the grounds of safety, and that the residents of other village withdraw the petition calling on the government to produce a relocation plan.
A new development - bomb explosion and explosion of struggle
For 13 years, the villages continued their efforts and struggles virtually on their own to find an end to their plight and solution to the problem created and perpetuated by the U.S. Air Force bombing and firing range. When the issue first arose in 1988, some civil society organisations were involved in the joint campaign. However, as the issue dragged on, the links between the villagers and advocacy groups and peoples organisation waned, apart from tenuous contacts maintained by a number of environmental movement groups.
In 2000, Chon Mahn-kyu, the leader of village peoples taskforce began to make links with other civil society movement groups to develop a common effort. The explosion 6 bombs by a U.S. Air Force plane reawakened the villagers’ struggle and the attention of the society.
On June 2, Chon Mahn-kyu, the chairperson of the village peoples taskforce, was arrested and detained by police for tearing down the red flag in the bombing and firing range which signal that bombing and firing training session is in operation. He was charged for trespassing and violation of the law which aims to protect the U.S. military facilities in Korea. The village peoples action erupted as they tried to force into the range and stop the bombing and firing following the release on previous day of the official findings of the Korean government and the U.S. Air Force that there were no real damage to the village people.
Maehyang-ri struggle - a new dimension
The developments in Maehyang-ri drew the attention of the society as a whole and the various civil society movements, such as environment movement, civil rights movement, labour movement, reunification movement, and the broad coalition which was working to force a democratic amendment of the Status of Forces Agreement.
The news of the bombing accident and the subsequent arrest of the village leader brought many people and organisations rushing to Maehyang-ri to provide assistance to the villagers and to mount a joint campaign. On June 6, some 3,500 people villagers, environmental movement activists, civic group members, workers, and students gathered for a protest rally. They formed human chain in front of the firing range demanding its closure. They also demanded the government to form a neutral fact-finding committee on the incident, while urging the U.S. ambassador to Korea to visit the site.
Alarmed by the massive direct action, the Ministry of Defense issued a statement that it would produce a plan to provide compensation for the recognised damage and suffering the villagers had incurred over the last many years, still insisting that there was no real damage from the May 8 bombing accident. At the same time, the Ministry representatives made clear that no concrete plan to facilitate villagers to move to new area was in pipelines and that there was no legal grounds for the villagers to claim compensation, thus no legal responsibility on the part of the government to produce compensation.
The response of the government and the U.S. Air Force inspired a new development in the attitude and direction of the actions of the village people. The village peoples taskforce, which had until now been aiming to obtain a government assisted relocation of the village people to another area, committed itself to demand the closure of the bombing and firing range. This occasioned the unity of the village people and subsequently the various civil society groups which had taken up the “Maehyang-ri issue”.
Peoples action continued to gain momentum. The June 8 mass rally and direct action was followed up with more assertive one on June 17. The decision by the U.S. Air Force to resume bombing and firing at the range from June 19, after a 35-day suspension, further inflamed the anger of the people. More than 3,000 people converged on Maehyang-ri, joining the local village people, to demand and force the closure of the bombing range and a complete suspension of drills. The heavy-handed actions of the riot police which prevented the rally approaching anywhere near the range resulted in a fierce clash between the rallyists and the police, leaving dozens of people injured.
On June 19th, the day the U.S. Air Force intended to resume bombing on the range, another rally was organised with an aim to occupy the range to physically prevent the bombing runs. The continuing intransigence of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea and the resistance and inability of the Korean government to heed the demands of the people and society are giving rise to “anti-American” slogans and sentiments. The imposing status of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea, feigning immunity from and indifference to the concerns of the people, and the image of the Korean government unable to act in a sovereign manner on the basis of the demands of the people but intent on defending the right and interest of the U.S. Armed Forces over and above the anguished petitions of the village people became the fertile source of anti-Americanism. It became a concrete example of how the sovereignty of the nation, the wishes of the people, and the ability of the government have been circumscribed by the existing arrangement that frame the “status” of not only the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea, but the entire U.S. presence in Korea.
The continued actions by the villagers and thousands of people mobilized by civil society organisations, environment movement, trade unions, students, human rights groups and the continued inaction by the Korean government and the continued bombing by the U.S. Air Force, led to the creation of a new broad coalition.
On June 22, the representatives of village peoples taskforce and more than 20 major representative organisations of the civil society from all sectors held a meeting to set the direction and framework of the campaign. At the meeting, the groups unanimously agreed to ask the Maehyang-ri Peoples Taskforce, the Peoples Action for Reform of Unjust ROK-U.S. SOFA Agreement (a broad coalition of civil society organisations), and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to convene a meeting to formally launch a new coalition. As a result, on June 30, the “National Action Committee for the Closure of the Maehyang-ri U.S. Armed Forces International Bombing Range” -- bringing together more than 60 social organisations -- was launched.
Maehyang-ri and SOFA and Justice
The decades of struggle of the village people of Maehyang-ri and the more recent development following the explosion of 6 bombs have made clear to everyone that “Maehyang-ri” is a concrete incarnation of the unequal relationship between Korea and the U.S. As such, it is -- together with the deepening frustration at the inability of the Korean judicial authorities to exercise its jurisdiction rights over various crimes committed by U.S. Armed Forces personnel against Koreans, the recent revelation of Nogun-ri massacre of Korean civilians by the American troops, toxic waste dumping, etc. -- contributing to the reshaping of peoples perception and understanding of the U.S. and its Armed Forces in Korea.
Maehyang-ri has emerged as a test ground for the Korean government, challenging it to become a government capable of advocating and defending the rights and interests of the people in its relations with the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea and the U.S. itself. The Korean government must present the demand to close down the range to the U.S., and negotiate the terms for its closure, including the issue of compensation and reparation of the environmental damage.
Demands and measures for justice and resolution
The Kooni U.S. Air Force Bombing and Firing Range must be closed down. The area the range is located is and has been for generation the home and source of livelihood for more than 3,000 people. As the village people have recently concluded, the idea of moving the people to another area so that bombing and firing could continue is totally unacceptable. It should not have been located there in the first place. The very act of setting up such a dangerous range there was an expression of arrogance and disregard for the rights and welfare of the people, the competence of the Korean government, and the sovereignty of the nation.
A just reparation and compensation for the village people should be undertaken. The extent and the causes for compensation are wide and many. The village people have already filed a lawsuit seeking 21.61 billion won ($18.8 million) in compensation for suffering related to the bombing and strafing drills that have taken place there over the past decades. In the written complaint, they demanded the government pay 10 million won to each of the residents, claiming that they have been suffering from exhaust fumes, tremors and extreme noise caused by the machine-gunning and bombing that has taken place at the shooting range since 1952.
In order to undertake a just reparation for the losses and suffering of the people, an independent, neutral and inclusive investigation committee (involving the local village people in the fullest) must be established entrusted to examine and review the entire situation, including the health of the village people, the destruction of life, loss of income, damages to their lives, homes, and life environment. Environmental impact evaluation -- and the consequent measures for reparation and compensation -- should be a central part of this effort.
Korean People and the U.S. -- the basis of a just and equal relationship
The start of this effort lies in the effort to correct all the “wrongs” in the current SOFA agreement.
Maehyang-ri has given impetus to the campaign to overhaul the SOFA that defines the status, responsibility, prerogatives of the U.S. Armed Forces in Korea. As the Korean government has “admitted”, there is no legal ground to require the U.S. Air Force to compensate and repair the damages. In order to establish the “legal grounds”, SOFA must be changed.
These measures are just the start of the effort to undo the deep-rooted damages and strains between the people of Korea and the U.S. A genuine effort to restore justice and equality as the central guiding principle of the relationship between the peoples of Korean and U.S. can only start with a recognition of the current injustice and inequality, and the causes for them.