Activists plan protests against Camp Humphreys expansion
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — South Korean activists opposed to the planned expansion of Camp Humphreys are hoping to draw up to 30,000 protesters to a rally outside the Pyeongtaek train station, activist Kim Yong-han said Monday.
Kim, of The Pan-Korean National Task Force Against Expansion of U.S. Bases in Pyeongtaek, said the group’s plans for Sunday don’t include a rally at Camp Humphreys itself.
Nevertheless, U.S. military officials and the Korean National Police are readying for possible trouble, said Susan Barkley, a spokeswoman for the Area III Support Activity at Camp Humphreys.
“We will still be prepared in the event that things do not follow that plan,” Barkley said.
At a July 10 protest staged by the same group in the rice fields just outside the post’s perimeter fence, 10,000 South Korean police equipped with riot shields and batons clashed with 7,000 protesters, many armed with sticks and pipes and some of whom hauled down sections of the fenceline.
Police said some 60 officers were injured in that melee, and protesters later said many of their number were also injured and accused police of excessive force.
Sunday’s 2 p.m. rally could draw from “a minimum” of 10,000 protesters to as many as 30,000, Kim said.
The rally is to be followed by a “peace march” to Pyeongtaek City Hall, said Kim, after which protesters will hold a candlelight “closing demonstration” either at the city hall or the train station, he said.
“We don’t like to discuss what we’re going to do,” Barkley said. “But I think you could say that a full analysis is always conducted and there are plans to respond appropriately.”
The KNP will have riot-equipped officers guarding the Camp Humphreys perimeter, as they do whenever a demonstration is held outside a U.S. military installation, Barkley said.
“Safety is always a primary concern,” said Barkley. “The Korean National Police … have positions at the perimeter. They are the ones that would engage any demonstrators.
“We do not engage any of the demonstrators unless they come onto USFK property,” Barkley said in a reference to U.S. Forces Korea.
“And we’re very confident that the KNP will perform as well as they always have,” she said. “…Because they’ve been in this business and they have always been up to the task.”
The task force wants the U.S. military to leave South Korea. It also opposes the U.S. military’s plan to transform Camp Humphreys into its main installation in South Korea by 2008. The post would triple in size.
The task force opposes the expansion, said Kim, because it will require the South Korean government to displace farmers who work the rice fields outside the post. And, the task force contends, the expansion could alarm North Korea and heighten tensions between North and South Korea, Kim said.