Reports: Contested land outside Humphreys to be sealed off
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — The South Korean Ministry of National Defense will use barbed-wire fences and security checkpoints to seal off some 2,000 acres of contested farm land outside Camp Humphreys, according to South Korean news accounts.
An MND official did not dispute the Yonhap News agency report Friday when contacted by Stars and Stripes but said the ministry would make no comment until it issues a statement on the matter Tuesday.
The South Korean government took control of the land outside Camp Humphreys in 2005 so the U.S. military eventually can transform the post into its main installation in South Korea.
Under an agreement between the United States and South Korea, the camp will triple in size by 2008, and its population will grow from more than 11,000 to about 45,000.
But some farmers complained that the deal forced them off land their families have farmed for generations.
And it’s led to protest rallies outside or near Camp Humphreys by South Korean activists. A rally last July saw some 7,000 protesters face off against 10,000 riot-equipped South Korean police.
According to the Yonhap report, MND also will dig large holes in roads to hinder travel into the area and use the Daechu-ri elementary school grounds to warehouse equipment for the project.
Daechu-ri is a farming village whose rice fields in places reach virtually to the edge of the Camp Humphreys perimeter. It has been a hotbed of farmer opposition to the planned expansion and the school grounds have been a frequent rallying place for groups staging anti-expansion rallies.
According to the South Korean news outlet Newsis, South Korean authorities have warned local residents that trespassing on the land will lead to criminal charges and heavy fines.
The MND also has asked Pyeongtaek City’s Korea Rural Community and Agricultural Corporation to shut off the farming water supply, Newsis reported. And it’s asked the Korea National Agricultural Cooperation Federation to deny bank loans to the farmers.
Some villagers said they would begin farming the land March 17, Yonhap reported.
And an activist figure who has led past Pyeongtaek rallies protesting the expansion told Stars and Stripes on Friday his organization will back the farmers in this latest turn in the conflict.
“Our organization will … fight against MND policy,” said Kim Yong-han, a leader of the Pan-Korean National Task Force Against Expansion of U.S. Bases in Pyeongtaek.