Merchants say Camp Humphreys protests are hurting business
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Merchants who say business has suffered because of recent anti-U.S. protests outside Camp Humphreys in South Korea will meet Saturday’s scheduled anti-Humphreys rally with a counter-protest of their own.
Some farmers and others who face South Korean government eviction from their land near Camp Humphreys have been holding rallies since last year to oppose the expansion.
The latest of those — a scheduled four days of rallies — was set to begin Saturday outside the post’s main gate and continue through Tuesday.
Demonstrations earlier this month led Camp Humphreys officials to put an off-limits restriction on Anjung-ri, the town outside the post, which includes a bar and restaurant district U.S. servicemembers frequent. Officials later lifted the restriction.
The Anjung-ri Merchants Association wants the demonstrators to stop holding rallies in Anjung-ri and instead hold them outside key U.S. military or South Korean government headquarters in Seoul, said Kim Ki-ho, the association’s president.
“We don’t want a demonstration over here because if they come, all downtown is put off-limits and we don’t make money,” Kim said.
Kim expected 200 to 300 merchants and allied residents to join the protest, he said Thursday.
As of Thursday afternoon, Anjung-ri was not off-limits to U.S. military members, said Susan Barkley, chief spokeswoman for the Area III Support Activity at Camp Humphreys.
But, she said, “changes or adjustments will be made as the situation dictates.”
Barkley said the following off-limits restrictions remained in effect Thursday for U.S. military personnel: The villages of and routes to Daechu-ri, Bonjong-ri, Wongjong-ri, Nae-ri, Dodu-ri, Hamjeong 1-ri, Hamjeong 2-ri and Duejeong-ri.
The ban does not apply to personnel entering those areas on their way to or from work. Inside Camp Humphreys, the northern perimeter road is closed to vehicles and pedestrians between the 3rd Military Intelligence Battalion headquarters area and the South Korean defense ministry compound main gate in the Zoeckler Station section.
South Korea’s government has moved recently to clear all remaining residents from their homes on farmland near Camp Humphreys, including Daechu-ri, which borders the post.
The government took legal control of 2,328 acres in 2005 to clear the way for Camp Humphreys to triple in size and become the U.S. military’s main installation on the peninsula by 2008.
Most residents have left but some have refused, vowing to resist eviction efforts.
Earlier this month, resisters scuffled with police during an abortive South Korean defense ministry attempt to begin closing off the contested lands. Some resisters have barricaded themselves inside the Daechu-ri Elementary School and have said they are ready to face arrest and even death in their refusal to move from the village.
South Korea’s defense ministry has said it eventually will seal off the area and carry out the evictions.