S. Korea training range protesters sentenced
Stars and Stripes October 12, 2003
SEOUL — A Uijongbu judge handed down prison terms Friday ranging from 18 to 30 months for 13 anti-American protesters who raided a training range, burning a U.S. flag and jumping on tanks.
On Aug. 7, the protesters — believed to be members of a group affiliated with the outlawed protest organization Hanchongryon — rushed into Rodriguez Range, an area in Pochon about 30 miles northeast of Seoul. The range was being used to demonstrate the Army’s Stryker armored-personnel carrier.
Photographs show vivid scenes of U.S. soldiers and young protesters in a tug-of-war over an American flag, while other demonstrators were seen on top of armored vehicles.
Judge Yi Chu-hyun sentenced four protesters to two years in prison plus three years’ probation. Eight others were sentenced to 18 months in prison plus two years’ probation.
Yi Young-hun, 28, was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Yi belongs to Voice of People, an Internet-based, anti-American group that often videotapes assaults on U.S. military installations and posts them online.
Prosecutor Kwon Young-bin would not comment on the sentencing. On Sept. 22, Kwon asked the judge for prison terms ranging from one to three years.
Air Force Master Sgt. Dawn Hart, a U.S. Forces Korea spokeswoman, said the command “appreciated the prosecution of the individuals who illegally entered the firing range.”
The Hanchongryon group — comprising mostly university students — was outlawed because of its sympathy with North Korean ideology. The South Korean government considered legalizing the group, but that notion was halted after high-profile attacks this summer on U.S. bases were pinned to Hanchongryon.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun condemned the attacks. No Americans were injured, but Korean National Police officers were called on to beef up their presence and patrol inside base walls.
On June 14, Hanchongryon members were detained after leaping a base wall near the Korean War museum. A video showed protesters running inside while military police chased them. Afterward, soldiers placed razor-tipped concertina wire around low walls on Yongsan Garrison.
About 20 protesters charged into the Far East District Compound on July 25. Some in the group seized an American flag and burned a hole in it before being detained by Korean police.