Saturday, May 13, 2006

Pyeongtaek Protests against shifting of US Military Base in South Korea


About 4,000 South Korean protesters were prevented from proceeding to a rally by riot police in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, amid concern the demonstrations against the relocation of the U.S. military headquarters may turn violent and harm relations between the two countries.

About 19,000 riot police officers wielding batons and shields prevented the protesters, including farmers, students and labor union members, from accessing the site where the rally was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. Korea time in Pyeongtaek, 65 kilometers south of Seoul, an organizer and police said. The number of protesters had declined to about 2,500 in the afternoon, police said.

``We demand the government stop construction of the new base in the city, and map out the project from the beginning,'' You Young Jae, a spokesman of Pan-South Korean Solution Committee Against U.S. base extension in Pyeongtaek, said today in a phone interview. ``The government should scrap its earlier assignment of defense facility areas in the rice-farming city.''

Two protesters and two police officers were injured in clashes, Lee Song Jae, a spokesman at the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, said by telephone. Thirty-two people were being held in police offices near Seoul as of 3 p.m. in connection with the protests, he said.

Clashes between the protesters and riot police were broadcast by YTN television news.

Resolve Differences

The protesters have said they are against the moving of the main U.S. military base from Seoul, which was agreed in 2003 between Korea and the U.S. and ratified by South Korea's parliament.

Prime Minister Han Myeong Sook urged citizens on May 12 to resolve their differences through dialogue. On May 4 when military engineers and medics moved in to secure the area for the military base and to begin erecting fences around the site, about 210 people, 117 policemen and 93 protesters were injured in clashes, JoongAng Daily said on May 5.

The U.S. has stationed troops in South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War to help defend the nation from possible attack from communist North Korea. The Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace agreement.

Technorati Tags: , .