Koreans plan protest outside Kunsan
SEOUL — About 35 South Korean civic groups are planning a Saturday protest outside Kunsan Air Base, according to local police and U.S. military officials.
The groups are protesting a planned expansion of the U.S. air base and the 10th anniversary of one of the group’s weekly Wednesday protests outside Kunsan.
The groups claim they’ll have 1,000 protesters but South Korean police said about 500 protesters are expected between 2 and 7 p.m.
If the weather is good, police said, protesters are expected to march along the base’s coastal fence line.
If it rains, however, they are expected to stage the protest at Kunsan’s main gate.
A warning posted on the U.S. Forces Korea Web site says about 2,400 riot-control police are to deploy for the protest, but South Korean police said a final determination had not been made as of late Wednesday.
Korean Ministry of National Defense officials have said they fear the Kunsan Air Base expansion would bring violent protests similar to those in Pyeongtaek over the Camp Humphreys expansion last year.
But during a phone interview Wednesday, ministry officials said they don’t think the weekend’s protest will be anything like those he feared, despite the fact that the Rev. Moon Jung-hyun — a central figure in the Pyeongtaek protests — will lead the groups.
The Kunsan residents, he said, have long wanted to vacate the area.
“The only question with it is how much they would be compensated,” he said.
The Pyeongtaek protesters, however, fought not to leave the land they farmed.
Air Force officials at Kunsan said Wednesday they were planning what, if any, additional security measures to take Saturday. Under consideration, officials said, were possible bus schedule changes and the chance that troops might be restricted to base Saturday.
“We don’t want to jump the gun,” said spokeswoman Capt. Tiffany Payette.
“Each day the information changes a little bit based on what the protesters decide to do.”
She said a decision should be made Thursday.
Other protests set for Saturday
Two other protests expressing anti-U.S. sentiment are planned outside U.S. Forces Korea facilities on Saturday:
Camp Walker: About 700 members of The Democratic Labor Union, People’s Federation and Unification Federation will gather from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Gate No. 6.
Afterward, protesters are expected to march toward Woo Bang Land Amusement Park.
Yongsan Garrison: About 500 members of Jinbo Yondae will gather between 1 and 5 p.m.