A banned South Korean student activist group might launch violent demonstrations against U.S. military installations in reaction to South Korea’s decision Thursday to allow the importation of American beef, according to U.S. Forces Korea.
The group, Hanchongryon, "may attempt violent demonstrations and/or trespassing onto U.S. installations," according to a force-protection warning posted at www.usfk.mil.
Tens of thousands of South Koreans have taken to the streets in protest rallies in recent weeks, with many claiming the meat isn’t safe from mad cow disease. Dozens have been arrested, according to South Korean news reports.
And opposition political leaders were discussing ways to block the beef from entering the country, according to a report from The Associated Press.
Three opposition parties met Friday to discuss options such as filing a case with the Constitutional Court and seeking an injunction to block the start of imports, the main opposition United Democratic Party said on its Web site, AP reported.
South Korea, once one of the top importers of U.S. beef, closed its borders to the product after the first mad cow disease case hit the United States in 2003.
USFK Commander Gen. B.B. Bell also issued a warning to his command on Friday.
"The beef announcement has the potential to cause further escalation in the protest activity with at least one protest group threatening to resort to violence against U.S. military installations," he wrote in a "Bell Sends" message posted on the command Web site.
He added that he didn’t want "altercations between demonstrators and American military personnel or their families," based on South Korea’s decision, and warned the community to avoid demonstrations and to stay "aware of your surroundings for possible danger."
Bell also instructed the community to adhere to the Korea-wide curfew for U.S. personnel that extends from midnight to 5 a.m. on weekdays and 1 to 5 a.m. on weekends.
A command spokesman said Bell’s message was not in response to any specific incident.
"So far no troops or installations have been directly targeted," USFK spokesman David Palmer wrote in an e-mail message Friday. "We are ensuring our troops are aware and vigilant."
Anyone off base and in need of assistance is asked to call the Korean National Police at 112 or the Yongsan Military Police off post at 02-7914-3004 or 3005.