S. Korean police arrest Rodriguez Range protest organizer
August 21, 2003
SEOUL — South Korean police arrested the 27-year-old student organizer of an Aug. 7 protest that saw South Korean students and U.S. soldiers tussle over an American flag, officials said Tuesday.
The student — identified only by his family name, Kim — was arrested Aug. 16, according to a statement from South Korea’s National Police Agency. Police still are searching for four or five other senior members of Bomchonghakryon, the student group that planned and organized the “raid” on Rodriguez Range, a 2nd Infantry Division live-fire training range north of Seoul.
Police also are investigating whether the protesters have any connection to other activist groups, such as the government-banned Hanchongryon, whose members demonstrated against U.S. presence in South Korea on Liberation Day last weekend in downtown Seoul.
According to police, the Rodriguez Range protesters signed on to a resolution before the action stating: “It’s been 50 years since we were liberated from Japan. However, it’s just verbal liberation. We’ve been under U.S. in the same manner,” it read, in part.
“We are here to stop the war that would break our peace,” it continued, “by sacrificing our bodies, we prevent a war on this Korean Peninsula and we will do our best for the peace of this country.”
Bomchonghakryon translates literally to “Pan-Korean Students Councils for Unification.” The group, formed in August 1992, includes around 600 young workers and university students in South Korea, North Korea and Japan, according to the group’s Web site.
In reaction to that and other “increasingly aggressive” rallies, U.S. Forces Korea went into a heightened state of security around installations, officials said last week.
In recent protests, demonstrators have climbed walls, vandalized gates and barged into U.S. military facilities in efforts aimed at ejecting U.S. forces.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff also ordered South Korean military units in the field to share intelligence on upcoming protests with the U.S. military, said Maj. Chon Pyong-kyu, a joint chiefs spokesman.
However, physical intervention at rallies still is permitted only for the South Korean police.