“South Korea is Burning”
This is to share with you some of the recent situation in South Korea concerning ongoing protests around the country against the US forces, and to ask for your interest and support.
Two teenage girls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun, were walking to a friend’s birthday party along a public road when they were struck and crushed to death by a United States Army bridge carrier on June 13th, in the countryside 5 miles north of Seoul. Two US servicemen involved in the accident were tried in their military court with an all-servicemen jury, and were recently acquitted. This sham trial provoked a wave of reactions and actions, deeply embedded in the 57 year long semi-colonial relationship between the two countries.
Since the acquittal, voluntary protests as well as organised ones have been spreading from Seoul to all the major cities. Everyday there are evening candlelight vigils in front of the American Embassy in Seoul and town centres in other cities, called for and participated in by all kinds of people, from very young teenagers to passers-by. The first evening vigil near the American Embassy was attended by more than ten thousand people, most of them informed through voluntary networks on the internet. Millions of young people are talking, networking, organising, and spreading words about this anti-US protest on the net every day. Some of them have tried to shut down the White House website. Pop-stars and movie actors are joining the vigils, holding special concerts and declaring their views on the arrogance of the US policies towards South Korea. Religious groups are holding prayer meetings and fast protests. So far two US military bases have been broken into and “hosted” peaceful demonstrations launched by student activists. One US military facility was attacked with fire-bombs, and another had its wire fence torn off.
This daily wave of ‘anti-American’ protests is a deeply significant social change in a country almost known as a part of the U.S.A., and has been highly shocking to many in the establishment. Now it is now spreading fast and is likely intensify in coming weeks. Even though immediate concerns and discussion revolve around the unfair trial and the US arrogance over Korea, most of us are well aware that this great popular energy is also closely linked with the public’s anti-war sentiment directed at the Bush administration. This wave is in fact a succession of the previous public anger towards Bush’s Axis of Evil talk towards North Korea. All in all, this is a coming legitimacy crisis for the American heavy hand in South Korea, as well as a sign of Washington losing its ground in this region! (See also the situation report attached below.) Now here are what we would like to ask you:
Please send us your views and support/solidarity/anti-war messages. We will spread your words to millions more.
Please spread the news around you. (See http://www.base21.org)
Let us build solidarity bridges with your anti-war movement: send us your anti-war messages.
Visit our rallies and vigils if you can send someone to South Korea. (We are planning a candlelight vigil and peace rally on December 14th in Seoul.)
Current Situation Involving the “Crushing to Death of Two Schoolgirls”
On June 13, 2002, two Korean schoolgirls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun, were crushed to death in Yangju County, Kyonggi Province, Korea, by an armored vehicle belonging to the 2nd Division of the U.S. Forces in Korea. Deeply mourning for their deaths, Korean people have greatly resented the current Korea-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) under which a Korean civilian court could not try the two U.S. soldiers who killed the two Korean teenage girls.
The Korean non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which have endeavoured to ttransform this Korean sentiment to a nation-wide movement, have formed the ” Nation-wide Committee to deal with the killings of Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun”, launching campaigns for the collection of one million signatures, an overall revision of the SOFA, as well as for retrial of the murderous U.S. soldiers by a Korean court.
Defying this public sentiment of the Korean people, however, the U.S. court-martial in Korea, in the trials of November 18 to 22, acquitted the indicted two servicemen of negligent homicide charges. These verdicts have exploded anti-Americanism lying latent among Korean people.
The Nation-wide Committee, which has been doing campaigns upholding such sentiment of Korean people, convened on November 27 a “Conference on emergency situation of representatives of civic groups and political parties” attended by the leaders of major NGOs of Korea, and issued the following declaration on the current situation in Korea.
Declaration on the Current Situation
On November 20 and 22, the U.S court-marshal in Korea gave “not guilty” verdicts to Fernando Nino, controller of the armored vehicle, and Mark Walker, driver, who cold-bloodedly crushed to death the two Korean schoolgirls with their heavy armored vehicle. Now Korean people are seething with anger at the U.S. court-marshal, which arrogantly and brazenly acquitted the U.S. soldiers saying that “the road accident was unavoidable”, even though they have run over the two teenage schoolgirls.
The U.S. Forces in Korea have fully exposed their inhuman nature by their military court’s giving an indulgence to the killings by two U.S. servicemen.
The Korean Government, which has been powerless and irresponsible toward the not guilty verdicts, which trampled the sovereignty and self-respect of our nation, is now reduced to an advocate of the U.S. verdicts.
As the crimes and arrogance of the U.S. forces in Korea have plundered the lives and self-respect of Korean people, and the Korea Government has given up protecting the lives and human rights of its people from them, we declare our position as follows:
1. The United States should apologize to Korean people for its deceitful court-marshal and nullify its verdicts promptly.
We believe that the trials by the U.S court-marshal were fraudulent dramas produced on predetermined scenarios to acquit the indicted U.S. soldiers.
Even the minimum justness of this court-marshal could not be expected from the beginning, as its judges, juries, prosecutors, lawyers, and witnesses were all American military personnel.
The U.S. court-marshal eventually handed down not-guilty verdicts on the ground that the communication equipment of the armored vehicle was out of order, although there were a series of testimonies at the court to the contrary. Even if the communication equipment had some trouble, the commander who led the convoy could have stopped the convoy before the armored vehicle hit the girls. These facts show how fraudulent these trials were, making a fool of Korean people.
In addition, the incident was not a simple accident or a negligent homicide but at least a homicide by wilful negligence. But the military prosecutors charged the soldiers with negligent homicide and the judge cleared them of even those charges. Thus, the U.S. court-marshal covered up or fabricated the case, by making it a simple accident caused by failure in the communication equipment. Furthermore, even after the prosecutors indicted the soldiers for negligent homicide, they did not show the will at all to prove their charges. Also, the court-marshal tried the two accused separately so that each could impute the responsibility to the other. The prosecution did not even adopt the convoy commander as a witness, much less indict him, even though not only lawyers but also witnesses on the side of the prosecution argued for examining his responsibility for the incident.
In this way, the trials by the U.S. court-marshal were a fraud without justice from the beginning to the end. They were a mere formality to give an acquittal to the accused. The fact that the acquitted soldiers left Korea soon after the trials proves it.
We demand, therefore, that the U.S. Government apologize for these fraudulent verdicts of the court-marshal and nullify them. At the same time, we strongly urge the U.S. Government to hand over criminal jurisdiction to the Korean side so that a Korean civilian court can try the accused U.S. soldiers.
2. The Korean Government should actively push for invalidation of the “not guilty” verdicts, and trials of the murderous U.S. soldiers by a Korean court. It also should push for an overall revision of the SOFA immediately.
Korean government has enunciated its position that “the Korean people must respect the U.S. legal process, and that revision of SOFA is practically difficult, and the anti-American movement runs against Korea’s national interest.” But such a position is diametrically opposed to the demands and sentiment of the Korean people. A senior aide to the President in diplomatic and national security affairs has even abused the Korean people by saying that those who protested against the acquittal of the two U.S. soldiers are “a handful of radicals.”
We cannot but feel shameful and angry over the flunkeyism of the Korean Government defending actively the U.S. military trials, which have mercilessly trampled down the nation’s sovereignty and pride of our people.
Bent on not offending Washington, the Korean Government has so far shunned the people’s demands for the transfer of criminal jurisdiction from the U.S. to Korea, and punishment of the murderous U.S. soldiers. Instead, it has rather suppressed our citizens who have fought for the settlement of the two schoolgirls’ cases. Considering such irresponsibility and low posture of the Korean Government, acquittal of the U.S. soldiers could have been expected.
We strongly urge the Korean Government to immediately stop such subservient behavior in defending the deceitful trials of the U.S. court-martial, and to actively push for a nullification of its verdicts, and make the murderous U.S. soldiers stand trial in a Korean court. We also ask the Korean Government to release immediately the young people and students who have been arrested for struggling for the punishment of the murderous GIs.
On the other hand, the recent U.S. military trials have clearly shown that, unless the current SOFA between Korea and the United States is revised overall, Korea cannot exercise its judicial sovereignty nor can prevent lots of crimes by U.S. servicemen. Therefore, the Korean Government should at once undertake an overall revision of the SOFA. The Korean National Assembly should also convene an extraordinary session to adopt a resolution urging the Korean Government to completely revise the SOFA.
3. We will continue our nation-wide struggle until the murderous U.S. soldiers are punished by Korean courts and the Korea-U.S. SOFA is revised overall.
In compliance with the earnest desire of the whole Korean people, we will unfold an all-out struggle for the nullification of the U.S. court-marshal’s verdicts of acquittal, for the punishment of the murderous U.S. servicemen, and for an overall revision of the SOFA. Already, young people and students are spearheading the struggle, and a wide range of the young and old, without distinction of sex or social status, are supporting our struggle.
We are confident that, if we mobilize and develop the nationwide will to struggle, our struggle for the nullification of the “not guilty” verdict, punishment of the murderous U.S. soldiers and an overall revision of the SOFA will surely succeed.
Now, we sincerely appeal to our people:
Let’s all people join in our struggle for the nullification of the fraudulent verdicts of acquittal, for punishment of the murderous Gis, and an overall revision of the SOFA!
Let’s show the Korean and American authorities our demands and will to struggle by actively supporting the national action guidelines!
Let’s settle the grudge of the killed Hyo-soon and Mi-sun, and restore, by our unified strength, the trampled national sovereignty and self-respect, and open a new chapter of national independence.
– Civic groups participating in the Pan-National Committee on the girls killed by a U.S. armored vehicle
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