Troops told to avoid protesters near Humphreys
PYONGTAEK, South Korea — Camp Humphreys officials are gearing up for a large anti-American demonstration near the base over the holiday weekend and have cautioned U.S. soldiers to steer clear of the protest.
Protest leaders object to plans by the South Korean government to buy farmers’ land to enlarge Camp Humphreys. They say the farmers should be paid more than the government has offered.
Camp Humphreys is a 1,230-acre U.S. Army helicopter base in Pyongtaek’s Anjung-ni section, about 45 miles south of Seoul. It’s also a centerpiece of U.S. plans to consolidate many forces to bases south of the Han River.
A Sunday rally is set to be staged some distance from Camp Humphreys, but officials said they were taking precautions should the marchers close on the installation.
Protest planners have scheduled a two-day “anti-war, pro-peace” festival starting Saturday at the Pyongtaek Sports Complex; the “peace march” is scheduled for Sunday at 10 a.m. Organizers are selling festival tickets for 10,000 won [around $8]. Turnout estimates vary, but planners forecast at least 2,000.
Officials said marchers are expected to proceed to the Dae Chu-ri Elementary School about a block from the camp’s northern perimeter. “We are not expecting any anti-U.S. activity at any of our gates,” Camp Humphreys spokeswoman Susan Barclay said Wednesday. “What we are preparing for is a rally along the northern perimeter.”
Still, Humphreys officials are taking several precautions, Barclay added.
A “crawler” began airing Tuesday on American Forces Network-Korea television “to notify our personnel of the planned gathering,” she said. “And it asked them to avoid the area and report any unusual activities to the Camp Humphreys officer-in-charge” by calling DSN 753-6111. Also, base units are to take countermeasures if protesters try to enter.
But the Army will rely mainly on a Korean National Police cordon outside the installation perimeter, Barclay said. “We are anticipating that the Korean National Police will reinforce the number of troops that they have. … The KNP is our first line of defense,” she said. “Our personnel would not be involved unless the perimeter were breached.”
Saturday’s events include an anti-war concert and other entertainment, street vendors — selling only peace-related items — and a “turtle marathon” running event with prizes that include “anti-war” T-shirts.
The gradual enlargement of Camp Humphreys is called for under the Land Partnership Plan, a 2002 U.S.-South Korean agreement. The United States is to close many existing U.S. military installations around South Korea but expand certain others — including Camp Humphreys — with additional lands provided by the South Korean government.
A protest sponsor’s Web site states in Korean, “For so many years, the city of Pyongtaek was putting up with the foreigners who came in and took over our lands. At first, it was the Japanese, then it was the Americans. We’ve shared a part of our land with the Americans this long, and now our own government is giving them more of OUR land.
“We’ve suffered enough because of the American presence.”