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8th Army responds to S. Korean complaints about Rodriguez range

By KIM GAMEL AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 22, 2016

SEOUL, South Korea — The U.S. military agreed Thursday to address noise complaints and safety concerns about the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex near the border with North Korea.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, 8th Army commander, signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at forging a stronger bond between residents in the rural area and U.S. forces who train there.

The mountainous, 3,390-acre training complex is considered essential by U.S. Forces Korea and their South Korean allies for military exercises to maintain a state of readiness amid high tensions on the divided peninsula. It will remain operational even after most U.S. forces relocate south to an expanded Camp Humphreys.

But nearby residents have long complained about noise, fires and occasional mishaps. Training was temporarily halted after an anti-tank missile fired by U.S. Marines on Dec. 30 landed in an abandoned building about 650 feet outside the range’s boundary.

The memorandum, which was also signed by South Korean Ministry of National Defense official Suh Hyung-suk, is to establish a framework for organizations to continue safe training and respond to local concerns about activities on the range.

It “will be a guiding document to open lines of communication between U.S. forces, the Ministry of Defense and area citizens,” according to the 8th Army.

Protesters have maintained a small vigil outside the range, which is near the city of Pocheon.

Yu Jai-hwan, a local village chief and the leader of a task force on the issue, said he wasn’t satisfied with the memorandum of understanding because it only included USFK and the Defense Ministry.

“They tell us they did it to minimize damages to residents, but we can’t help doubting that since they didn’t share the content with us,” he said in a phone interview. “Also there’s no content to specify how things will be carried out and what procedures will be followed.”

gamel.kim@stripes.com

Twitter: @kimgamel

Suh Hyung-suk, an official with South Korea's Ministry of Defense, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the 8th Army, sign a memorandum of understanding at the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex near the border with North Korea on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.
COURTESY OF THE 2ND INFANTRY DIVISION

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