Rallies prompt USFK to boost security
August 18, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea is in a “heightened state of security” following increasingly aggressive rallies in which anti-American protesters have climbed walls, vandalized gates and barged into U.S. military facilities in efforts aimed at ejecting U.S. forces.
Citing the activities of Hanchongryon — an illegal group of aggressive anti-American student protesters — “security awareness is a natural initiative in light of these events,” according to a written USFK statement released to Stars and Stripes.
“We will maintain our present state until the situation warrants decreasing,” the statement reads.
Illegal entry onto bases and violent acts have resulted in visible measures on bases such as Yongsan Garrison, where Korean National Police officers now patrol inside.
The move came after senior U.S. leaders asked the KNP to “vary their tactics in protecting Yongsan,” according to the statement. The KNP, the statement said, has been supportive of efforts to improve base safety and provide protection for more than 40 USFK installations.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff issued guidelines Tuesday to South Korean military units in the field to share intelligence on upcoming protests with the U.S. military, said Maj. Chon Pyong-kyu, spokesman. However, military units will not intervene in rallies because of legal restrictions, Chon said.
“In light of the United States and South Korean alliance, U.S Army training shouldn’t be hindered,” Chon said. “To prevent the recurrence of that kind of the recent training area protest, we need to share information.”
U.S. troops at Rodriguez Range were photographed Aug. 7 tussling with protesters as they climbed on tanks and wrestled over an American flag. The range, about 30 miles north of Seoul, was used to demonstrate the Army’s Stryker armored personnel carrier earlier this month.
Protesters entered the front gates of the range, and 12 students eventually were arrested. The same day, protesters threw bottles of red and yellow paint at the Far East District Compound, a small Army Corps of Engineers post in Tongdaemun. Six of 30 rioters were arrested, police said.
Both incidents were labeled by Korean police as the work of Hanchongryon.
Outside Yongsan Garrison, low concrete walls have been topped with concertina wire. In June, 14 Hanchongryon members were arrested after they leaped a low base wall near the Korean War Memorial and museum.
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.