Camp Humphreys protesters are braced for conflict
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Opponents of the planned expansion of Camp Humphreys were bracing for a possible run-in with South Korean government authorities this week over contested farmland near the installation, the Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday.
The report said South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense planned on Friday to cut off four canals that supply water to the rice fields of Daechu-ri and four other local farming communities. It said the Korean National Police agency planned to move 5,000 riot police to the area during the closing of the canals. Daechu-ri borders part of Camp Humphreys.
A South Korean police official late Wednesday told Stars and Stripes the police were to move into the contested area on Thursday in support of the defense ministry’s effort.
Some residents and South Korean civic activists remain at odds with the South Korean government’s drive to clear the land of occupants and thus enable the camp to triple in size by 2008. The U.S. military plans eventually to transform Humphreys into its main installation on the peninsula under an agreement between the United States and South Korea.
The South Korean government bought the land in 2005 and assumed legal control of it. But some residents have refused to leave. Police and anti-expansion protesters have clashed in Daechu-ri several times, sometimes violently.
Wednesday, a defense ministry spokesman said his agency would issue a statement Thursday on the conflict.
South Korean news organizations also reported that two activists arrested in March and accused of hindering defense ministry officials in the area have been released after posting $10,000 bail.
On March 16, defense ministry officials aborted an effort to begin fencing off the land after some protesters set fires in the rice fields and others took control of two backhoes. The government had planned to use the backhoes to cut trenches across roads leading into the fields.
But the ministry has said it still intends to cut trenches across the roads, as well as cut the water supply. The measures are aimed at thwarting holdout farmers from planting a new spring crop. Moreover, the ministry has said it will eventually evict the holdouts and seal off the land.