Family says it forgives 8th Army driver who hit woman
June 19, 2005
DONGDUCHEON, South Korea — The family of a woman killed by a U.S. military vehicle on June 10 says relatives have forgiven the driver but want to be compensated for the disruption the accident caused to their dairy delivery business.
Kim Myung-ja, 51, was pulling a yogurt cart down Dongducheon’s Peace Street, in the Yangu area, when she was struck by a 2.5-ton U.S. Army truck, South Korea officials have said.
On Thursday, Kim’s brother Yang-sup, 49, and his wife, Shun In-ja, 48, took part in a Buddhist mourning ritual at a temple in the foothills near Dongducheon. The couple prayed while a monk banged cymbals and drums and chanted in front of a shrine to Kim that included an offering of the dairy products she delivered.
After the ceremony, they spoke to Stars and Stripes about Kim’s life and the aftermath of the accident.
Kim was born on a farm near Yangu in 1954. Her brother said the family was too poor to provide her more than an elementary school education and she became a farm worker, helping her parents harvest rice, cucumbers, peppers and cabbages sold to the U.S. Army’s nearby Camp Casey.
In her 20s, Kim fell in love with a Korean soldier, but her heart was broken when he ended the relationship, Yang-sup said. She never married.
Fifteen years ago the family bought the distribution business and Kim started delivering yogurt to customers in Dongducheon, Yang-sup said.
Her death has generated a wave of interest from local media and protesters, who have besieged the family. Yang-sup’s wife stressed that the family wants no part of the protests.
“The protesters urge us to make waves and make the case bigger and pave the way for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Korea,” said Shun. “They stay at the accident site day and night. Our business is right next to the accident site. Since the accident it has been impossible for us to open our business. We cannot even go to our office.”
Now three family members and another employee are out of work.
At the same time as dealing with the loss of a loved one, the family is worried about its financial future, Yang-sup said.
So far, he said, the U.S. military has paid them about $5,000. But Yang-sup plans to request additional money under the Status of Forces Agreement rules that allow South Koreans to claim compensation for damage, death or injury caused by U.S. forces.
Yang-sup said his business cost him about $100,000 and that it will lose $10,000 every month that he cannot work.
He is worried that he will be unable to submit proper documents for the claim because he doesn’t have tax documents detailing his sister’s income, which he said was about $70 a day.
U.S. Forces Korea officials, as a matter of policy, don’t comment on private compensation matters.
Chu Soon-ho, security and traffic division chief with a local police station, has told Stripes that investigators are reviewing statements made by the driver, 19-year-old Pfc. Jeff Bryant, and his passenger, 28-year-old Pfc. Cassandra Daryliell. South Korean police are running the investigation, and U.S. military officials said they are cooperating fully.
Yang-sup said his family bears no ill will toward Bryant.
“We hate to see the driver suffer or go through life difficulties through this accident,” he said. “Even though he was warned by the co-driver twice to be careful, the noise prevented him from hearing the warnings. We do not believe he did it on purpose. He was a young soldier, far from home and defending South Korea. The last thing we want is for the driver to be punished.”