Camp Humphreys soldiers told to steer clear of rally
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — The Camp Humphreys commander has ordered U.S. military personnel to keep clear of a large anti-American protest set for Sunday in the city of Pyeongtaek.
South Korean activists hope to draw thousands to a rally against the planned expansion of Camp Humphreys, slated to triple in size by 2008, becoming South Korea’s main U.S. military installation.
Col. Michael J. Taliento Jr., commander of the Area III Support Activity at Camp Humphreys, also has banned U.S. personnel from using public transportation in areas that might become protest venues this weekend, spokeswoman Susan Barkley said.
The restrictions, to be in effect from 6 a.m. Saturday to midnight Sunday, will apply to all U.S. Forces Korea personnel, Barkley said.
She said Taliento issued the restrictions Tuesday as part of a broader “operational” order for Area III during the protest.
The order puts off-limits Pyeongtaek’s downtown, including the train station, nearby shopping district and city hall, she said. Also off-limits will be roads and public transportation to and from local villages Daechu-ri, Bonjong-ri and Wonjong-ri.
The restrictions will not apply to personnel who live in those areas and need to travel to and from their homes, Barkley said.
Not changed thus far are operating hours of on-post facilities such as the post exchange or commissary, she said. Nor have officials announced that gates will be sealed off.
“Nothing has been specified,” Barkley said. “However, gates are subject to close, depending on the situation.”
Organizers hope turnout will range from 10,000 to 30,000, said Kim Yong-han, an activist leader with The Pan-Korean National Task Force Against Expansion of U.S. Bases in Pyeongtaek, which is mounting the protest.
But Pyeongtaek police officials, contacted Tuesday, said the task force reported about 3,000 protesters would attend. Protest groups are required to register with police and note how many protesters will attend.
Police officials will decide Thursday how many riot police to deploy.
On Monday, Kim said the rally is to start at 2 p.m. at the train station followed by a “peace march” to the city hall, then a “closing demonstration” either there or at the train station.
Meanwhile, the Korean Veterans’ Association has told officials at Osan Air Base that it will hold a pro-American counterdemonstration outside the base, said Osan spokesman Maj. David Smith. The base is in the Songtan section of Pyeongtaek.
Osan authorities this week are notifying the base community of the weekend’s planned events.
“Any kind of demonstration, whether it’s pro or against, we advise our servicemembers to avoid it,” Smith said Tuesday. “We don’t want to interfere with it in any way and we don’t want our folks to get involved with it.”
Barkley said Area III officials were giving the same guidance to members of the Camp Humphreys community.
Anyone who sees large gatherings should report them to the military police or officer-of-the-day, she said.
“Leave the area. Avoid mass transit facilities leading to or in the area when the demonstration is expected to occur,” she said.
The task force wants U.S. forces to leave South Korea. It opposes the Camp Humphreys expansion in part because it would displace nearby rice farmers. The group also contends the expansion will lead to heightened tensions between North and South Korea, Kim said.