1,100 riot police evict protesters near Humphreys
Stars and Stripes March 8, 2006
SEOUL — South Korean riot police and protesters clashed Monday over contested farmland outside the U.S. Army’s Camp Humphreys, according to South Korean officials.
About 1,100 Korean riot police were on hand early in the morning as about 60 officials served a mandatory eviction notice to people living on land purchased by the South Korean government. The government took control of about 2,000 acres of farmland outside Camp Humphreys in 2005 so the U.S. military eventually can transform the post into its main installation in South Korea. Under an agreement between the United States and South Korea, the camp will triple in size by 2008; its population is projected to grow from more than 11,000 to about 45,000.
About 250 residents gathered at the Daechu-ri elementary school, site of many protest rallies, on Monday morning to protest the planned eviction, according to the Ministry of National Defense. Police officers moved in to forcibly evict the residents after they were warned three times to disperse but refused.
Pyeongtaek police said they had removed about 20 people who were guarding the school’s gate. They also cut the chains off of seven or eight protesters who’d chained themselves together to act as a human shield.
Police officials, contacted late Monday, said the violence was ongoing and they were unable to comment on the number of arrests or injuries among protesters or police.
Camp Humphreys officials took several precautions, as they have routinely when a demonstration has been scheduled near the installation, said Susan Barkley, a spokeswoman for the Area III Support Activity. “This is something that is always done, it wasn’t just for this particular … for today,” Barkley said of the precautionary measures.
Camp Humphreys officials put three locales off-limits to servicemembers — Daechu-ri, Bongjong-ri and Wonjong-ri — Barkley said. The restriction began at 3 p.m. Sunday and was to continue until midnight Monday. “That’s except for residents traveling to and from home,” she added.
Officials also banned vehicles and pedestrians inside Camp Humphreys along that “northern end” of the post that borders the rice fields of Daechu-ri, Barkley said. That restriction began at noon Sunday and was to end midnight Monday, she said.
“Other than that it’s been business as usual” for the installation, Barkley said.
Ministry officials did not dispute, but wouldn’t confirm, South Korean news reports late last week that stated the MND will use barbed-wire fences and security checkpoints to seal off the contested area.
Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.