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SEOUL — Several high-ranking U.S. military officials, including U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Leon LaPorte, offered condolences Saturday to the family of the woman killed when she was hit by an 8th Army truck Friday afternoon.

LaPorte also directed a peninsulawide safety stand down, in which commanders “will stop non-emergency services and training to review safety procedures, discuss existing measures, and develop improved procedures to prevent vehicular accidents,” according to a USFK statement released late Saturday afternoon.

Early Saturday, Maj. Gen. George A. Higgins, 2nd Infantry Division commander, met with Yangu City Mayor Im Chung-bin, according to 8th Army officials. Higgins and South Korean army Maj. Gen. Jan Kwang-il, commander of the 26th Infantry Division, also visited a mourning room in the hospital to meet the deceased woman’s family.

An 8th Army spokesman said Higgins “shared a moment” with family members. The woman, whom funeral home officials identified as Kim Myung-ja, was pulling a yogurt cart on Yangu’s Peace Street at the time of the accident, police officials said Friday.

Higgins also provided the family with the initial solatium payment, said 8th Army spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Budzyna. He could not provide the amount given to the family. A solatium traditionally expresses remorse, but not guilt.

LaPorte, accompanied by Combined Forces Command deputy commander Gen. Lee Hee-won, also visited the family Saturday, according to military officials.

Budzyna said “both” soldiers involved in the accident are with their unit and that the military is cooperating with the South Korean investigation. Police officials said Saturday that they had questioned one soldier, 19-year-old Pfc. Jeff Bryant. U.S. officials have not released any names in connection with the accident.

“During the past three years USFK has made a great effort to improve all aspects of safety in our military operations, particularly those events directly impacting on our Korean neighbors,” stated Saturday’s command release.

At a White House press conference Friday with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, President Bush opened his remarks with condolences for the woman’s family.

“We send our deepest sympathies … ,” Bush said, according to a White House transcript. “And, Mr. President, I just want you to know our hearts are sad as a result of this incident.”

Roh responded by thanking Bush for “your warm message of condolence regarding the unfortunate incident involving U.S. Forces Korea.”

In June 2002, soldiers in an armored vehicle crushed two 13-year-old South Korean girls as they were walking along a road near a 2nd Infantry Division training area. The accident prompted violent demonstrations across the peninsula, with protesters calling for the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea and a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement. Violence peaked late in 2002, when the two soldiers were acquitted in separate courts-martial and returned to the United States.

American and South Korean officials formed a group to study operational safety and its recommendations were adopted May 30, 2003, according to Saturday’s release. These included improving local roads, limiting the number of large armored vehicle movements on public roads and improving the process for notifying local police and government officials when needed.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.


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