Protesters change stance, invite troops to friendship festival
A local Pyeongtaek business association that spent a week this summer protesting U.S. military policies in Area III was to hold a festival this weekend aimed at improving relations between the two communities.
The Anjung-ri Merchants Association is hosting the Korean/American One Heart Festival on Saturday and Sunday in the shopping and bar district just outside of Camp Humphreys, according to Kim Ki-ho, the association’s president.
“We hope that the festival will bring U.S. soldiers and local people to seek one heart, unified, after undergoing the Daechu-ri conflicts,” Kim said. “The festival will help us to strengthen our friendship and boost the local economy.”
The land around Camp Humphreys — especially farmland in the adjoining village of Daechu-ri — has been the focus of prolonged and sometimes violent protests this year as the U.S. and South Korean governments move forward with plans to expand the U.S. presence there.
The protests prompted military commanders to place some areas outside base off-limits, including shopping district Anjung-ri. In turn, the merchants complained of lost business. In June, when the merchants felt two bar owners were wrongly accused of selling alcohol to underage drinkers, the merchants held their own protest — and called for the resignation of Area III commander Col. Michael J. Taliento Jr.
Kim said the group has invited Taliento to the festival, as well as military members and Insuni, a famous South Korean-American singer. Other events slated include traditional folk music, a childrens’ drawing contest and karaoke contests.
The festival also is to include a 1.5-kilometer march at 1 p.m. Saturday, starting outside Humphreys’ main gate.