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People`s Movement Against US Military in South Korea

28. December 2002

by base21


In the 4 weeks immediately following the acquittal of two American GIs found innocent of any wrongdoing in the deaths of two Korean middleschool girls that were crushed to death by a U.S. military vehicle, a potent anti-U.S. movement has arisen. In the beginning there were only perhaps one hundred protesters, but only short while later the numbers of movement swelled to Thousands, demanding a direct apology from U.S. president Bush to be issued to the Korean public. The protesters are also demanding real justice in the case of the killings, which appears to them to be a clear cut case implicating guilt of the Gis involved.

On Saturday, December 7, after a large rally downtown Seoul, thousands took to the street and overturned one riot after another. In the end, around 20,000 demonstrators broke down the last cop line – even 10,000 riot cops couldn`t stop them – and occupied the area in front of the U.S. embassy. After this victory, we can say a genuine and spontaneous people`s movement took over the scene. Also last week teachers, Christians and hunger striking Buddhist monks, trade unionists, artists, doctors, farmers and street vendors joined the movement. Adding to the dissent, the National Basket Ball Team signed and circulated a protest petition and the famous Yoon Do-hyeon Band, gave a solidarity concert in the area near the US embassy where every night since November 30th, candlelight protests take place. And top singer Lee Jung-hyun joined the demonstrations. She says: “We, as popular artists have to call to all our people to take part in the land wide protests”.

One Saturday later came the highlight: joint rallies in 50 cities around the country were held simultaneously (in Seoul there were estimated to be 100,000 protestors for this event), demonstrating for justice in the case of the two schoolgirls and against the US military presence in the country. A student from Yonsei University in Seoul stated:
“Why do we need change SOFA? All we have to do to resolve the injustices is to kick out the American troops off the Korean peninsula!” After a large rally in front of City Hall – during World Cup hundreds of thousands celebrated here the victories of the Korean team – tens of thousands marched in the direction of the U.S. embassy (at least 15,000 according to JoongAng Ilbo newspaper). The protestors greatly outnumbered the 23,000 riot cops who were ordered to block the way to the embassy. Nervous from their experience the weekend before and having little faith in their ability to hold the crowds back with brute muscle, they just blocked all the entrances with a lot of big trucks. The demonstrators re-took Seoul`s largest avenue – Gwanghwamun-no which is situated very close to the US embassy and set up another strong rally. Again the atmosphere was like a huge party with strong speeches and a lot of music. Despite this victory – and it was a real victory, even if they couldn`t reach the embassy ?there exists some concern amongst the activists. “I really worry that it`s a turn around, a great boost to the nationalist movement. Even in our organization we`ve a few people turning this way. But we`ve got to fight against nationalism”, Joh Ji-yeong from the Democratic Labour Party stated. A Korean anarchist: “I see quite a lot people here feeling intensely proud to be Korean”. But in discussions with participators in the protests, they assert: “We are not against the American people. We`re against the American policy”. Meanwhile last Saturday, December 21, the 4th demonstration since the end of the last month took place. And again with power and more flexibility the protestors took the place in front of the US embassy, ended the event with a powerful but also colourful celebration. “This is the real citizen vote!”, a Joh Ji-yeong says. “And we get the experience that nobody can stop us!”

Source: base21