Police: Camp Henry protesters tied to outlawed student group
December 27, 2002
TAEGU, South Korea — The two men arrested in a protest atop a U.S. Army post water tower here earlier this month also will face prosecution for alleged membership in an outlawed student organization, authorities said.
Police accused the pair, full-time students at Taegu’s Kyungpuk National University, of being members of Hanchongryun, or the Korean Federation of University Student Councils.
The group praises Communist North Korea and mounts rallies advocating closer relations between the two Koreas. Membership violates South Korea’s National Security Law.
Police identified the two as Kim Tae-woo, 25, a computer major, and Yi Kyu-chul, 23, a journalism major.
Both have been held in the Taegu city jail since Dec. 14. They are accused of breaking into Camp Henry around noon that Saturday, scaling a 300-foot water tower, hanging protest banners, flinging leaflets and shouting slogans.
They were advocating revision to the status of forces agreement, the U.S.-South Korean pact that governs U.S. servicemembers in South Korea.
The pair allegedly set a ladder against the Camp Henry perimeter wall, placed a blanket over the concertina wire affixed to the wall and climbed over and into the installation. The tower, on the post’s southwest corner, contains drinkable water.
Prosecutors expect to try both in about a month, said Im Chae-hwa, a prosecutor in Taegu, South Korea’s third-largest city.
Blue-uniformed officers of the Korean National Police were on duty outside Camp Henry when the incident occurred. KNP officers have been standing guard outside key U.S. military installations on the peninsula since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
They increased the number of officers on perimeter duty in recent weeks as anti-American sentiment surged over a roadside accident in which a U.S. military vehicle struck and killed two Korean schoolgirls.
A U.S. military court later acquitted two soldiers charged with negligent homicide in the case, setting off waves of sometimes violent demonstrations, and demands that the SOFA be revised to give South Korean courts jurisdiction in all cases involving U.S. servicemembers.
Since the break-in, the Army has sought tighter security from the KNP.
The Army has “increased our coordination with our Korean National Police counterparts to ensure we have sufficient coverage and security of our installations,” said Maj. Andrew Mutter, spokesman for the 19th Theater Support Command at Camp Henry.
That came after the Army did an “after-action review” of the incident, Mutter said.
“As we do with all military operations, we held an AAR to discuss what happened and the things we could do better in the future,” he said. “Closer coordination with our Korean counterparts will help us ensure we have ample security in place to prevent an incident like this from happening in the future.”