S. Korea seeks to prosecute Camp Humphreys protesters
May 9, 2006
PYONGTAEK, South Korea — South Korean prosecutors are pursuing criminal action against 60 activists involved in last week’s violent clashes with government security forces on contested farmland near Camp Humphreys, a South Korean government official told Stars and Stripes on Sunday night.
Those suspected of fostering the violence in Daechu-ri village are among the prosecutor’s targets. The village borders Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.
In addition, defense ministry officials have decided to bolster the area’s newly installed razor-wire cordon by adding barricade materials, the government official said.
Protesters resisting the Camp Humphreys expansion clashed fiercely with government security forces last Thursday and Friday in Daechu-ri. The post is scheduled to eventually triple in size and become the U.S. military’s main installation on the peninsula under a U.S.-South Korean agreement.
The official said the defense ministry is weighing whether to issue its army engineer troops at the site protective gear that would include shields, batons and gas masks, the official said.
Prosecutors are pursuing action against 37 suspects for alleged involvement in violence last Thursday against police who stormed the Daechu-ri Elementary School and wrested it from protesters opposing the Humphreys expansion project, the official said. Protesters struck at police with bamboo shafts and metal pipes, among other objects.
Prosecutors will seek action against 23 suspects allegedly involved in last Friday’s second day of violence, the official said.
Protesters with sticks and bamboo shafts attacked unarmed soldiers on duty in the area, which the government has declared a military zone. Some protesters cut parts of the newly installed razor wire barrier.
Police arrested 524 protesters during Thursday’s raid on the school compound, which is just yards from Camp Humphreys. Government work crews tore down the two-story school building Thursday night once police had removed the last of the protesters from the building.
The school had closed some years ago. Activists who oppose the Humphreys expansion project barricaded the grounds and used the site as a base for protest activities.
On Thursday, authorities reported injuries to 110 police and about 100 protesters.
Dozens of soldiers were injured in Friday’s violence, and 11 were taken by helicopter to a military hospital, The Korea Times newspaper reported Sunday.
Police made 100 arrests Friday. Of those arrested, 20 were protesters who allegedly tried to get into Camp Humphreys, the government official said.
On Saturday and Sunday, activists held candlelight demonstrations in Seoul against the Humphreys expansion and the South Korean government’s recent actions in Daechu-ri, South Korean news organizations reported.
The government in 2005 purchased 2,328 acres of farmland near Camp Humphreys to make room for the expansion, a tract that includes Daechu-ri.
Many residents moved out of the area but some have refused to leave. The government has given the residents until the end of June to move out.
Since last year, the area has been the scene of frequent, often violent clashes between police and demonstrators opposing the expansion project.