Dozens of S. Koreans hold pro-USFK rally to counter 2ID concert boycott
UIJEONGBU, South Korea — Dozens of South Koreans waved American flags and signs with slogans like “Deploy THAAD immediately” and “Strong ROK-US alliance” during a rally Monday to support the 2nd Infantry Division after several musicians boycotted a recent concert celebrating its centennial.
The municipal government in Uijeongbu organized the June 10 concert at a sports complex in the city, which has long been home to 2ID headquarters at Camp Red Cloud. But several South Korean K-pop bands and other musicians who had been expected to perform either did not show up or declined to play their songs.
The group organizing Monday’s rally, which was held on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Army garrison, produced a letter addressed to the division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Theodore Martin.
“We, Patriotic Koreans want to deliver our deepest apology about the disruption of the Centennial concert,” the letter read. “We also want to express our sincere appreciation for you and your soldiers’ dedication for the security of the Republic of Korea.”
The boycott followed online criticism over the decision to hold the concert three days ahead of the 15th anniversary of the killing of two teenaged schoolgirls who were run over by a U.S. armored vehicle. The June 13, 2002, accident triggered anti-American protests, although the unit commander later apologized and compensation was paid.
Uijeongbu Mayor Ahn Byung-yong - who was deeply embarrassed as U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Vincent Brooks and other senior military officials were in the audience – blamed the boycott on leftist activists and media who favor peace talks with North Korea and oppose a strong U.S. military presence in the South.
An umbrella group of local civic organizations rejected that idea, saying the concert was organized at an inappropriate time of remembrance for the girls who died, Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-son, and should not have been funded with taxpayers’ money.
“It’s not appropriate that Uijeongbu citizens will have to pay for the city’s splurge … for improving friendly relations between the United States and South Korea,” the Uijeongbu Civic Society Group Joint Meeting said last week in a statement.
Many at Monday’s rally, which was organized by a nationalist group calling itself the Taegukgi Revolution Peoples’ Movement Corps, disagreed.
“The Reds and pro-North Koreans forced the singers not to sing,” said Shin Micaela, a 65-year-old housewife. She said she came to the rally to show her appreciation for U.S. forces in South Korea because “they have sacrificed for our country.”
Jung Jae Woo, 75, said he also wanted to show opposition to the new South Korean president’s decision to delay the full deployment of a controversial U.S. anti-missile battery known as THAAD.
“THAAD is indispensable in our country, isn’t it?” he said.
2ID dates to Oct. 26, 1917, and has guarded the front lines in South Korea since the war ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty. However, it is in the process of moving units to their new home at an expanded Camp Humphreys as part of a long-delayed plan to relocate the bulk of U.S. forces south of Seoul.
The United States has some 28,500 servicemembers stationed in South Korea.
“We certainly appreciate the generosity of our Korean hosts, as well as the fact that South Korea has successfully fostered a civil society that fosters a multitude of viewpoints,” 2ID spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Hyde said in response to a request for comment on the boycott.
The concert went ahead with acts by the 8th Army Band, the city choir and dancing troupe, a traditional Korean music performance and a taekwondo demonstration but was cut short, a city official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the controversy.
The Korea Times newspaper reported that R&B singer Insooni, whose father was a U.S. soldier, told the audience at the start of the concert that she would not perform her three songs.