Two S Korean teenagers run over US military vehicle


June 14, 2002


SEOUL - Two South Korean teenaged girls were killed on Thursday after being ran over by a wide US army armoured vehicle on an off-base training mission, US authorities said. Lieutenant General Daniel R. Zanini, commander of the Eighth US army in Korea, was quick to issue a "heartfelt" apology in an attempt to stop the tragedy from fueling anti-American sentiment.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event. I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the families of the children and pledge our resolve to vigorously investigate this accident," he said. The incident occurred in Gwangjeok, 30 kilometers north of Seoul. The 3.66-metre wide armoured vehicle bridge carrier was in convoy participating in a field exercise. "The two girls were ran over from behind while walking along the edge of the 4.2 metre wide road," Wi Yang-Gon, a police investigator in the northern city of Uijeongbu, told AFP.

He blamed the vehicle driver for careless driving. "I think the driver failed to see them. They were killed on the spot." The pair were hit by the right track of the vehicle, designed for makeshift bridge transport, Yonhap news agency said, adding the vehicle tried to pass a slower-moving vehicle by using the shoulder of the road.

South Korean police identified the two 14-year-old middle school students as Shin Hyo-Soon and Shim Mi-Sun. They said the driver, Sergeant Mark Walker, was from a US infantry division. Police handed over the driver to US military police for investigation. - AFP



Killings of young girls by U.S. troops ignites rage

By Sharon Ayling

Workers World, August 1, 2002


Koreans have mounted nearly daily protests for the past five weeks demanding that the U.S. military hand over two U.S. soldiers whose armored vehicle killed two south Korean teenage girls on June 13.

On July 14, 1,000 activists and students rallied near the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division base in Uijongbu, on the northern outskirts of Seoul, chanting, "We oppose the U.S. military!" They burned a giant U.S. flag. Protesters called for withdrawal of Pentagon troops from south Korea and for President George W. Bush to apologize for the deaths. The demonstrators briefly scuffled with south Korean riot police who stopped them from entering the base to deliver a protest letter.

On July 17, about 500 south Korean high school students, some in their school uniforms, sang anti-U.S. songs and tossed dozens of red paper planes over the base's 10-foot wire fence that carried the message, "U.S. troops out of Korea! Give up jurisdiction!"

Many thousands have signed a petition to the commander of the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division that reads in part, "At about 10:40 a.m. on June 13, an armored vehicle belonging to your U.S. 2nd Infantry Division crushed dead two innocent young girls, Shin Hyo Soon and Shim Mi Sun. We believe this incident was not an accident caused by a driver mistake. It was caused by your long-standing practice of safeguarding American vehicles at any costs with little respect for the lives of the Korean people. ... Let the Korean court prosecute not only the guilty driver but also his superiors."






The vehicle was a 60-ton AVLM, used to clear mines. It was part of a convoy traveling to a training exercise on Highway 56, a two-lane road winding past rice fields and small farms. The road, which has no sidewalk or shoulder, is a main pathway for pedestrians in the area.

At 12-feet wide, the AVLM was wider than the lane it was in and so it extended about 30 inches off the road. At the time that the girls were crushed, another convoy of U.S. military vehicles was coming in the opposite direction.

Military officials said that they are not pulling AVLMs off the road in Korea and declared Highway 56 a critical link for their troops. The exercise was not canceled as a result of the accident.

The outraged community is demanding that the U.S. military take measures to prevent similar accidents, compensate the victims' families, stop holding training operations near civilians and revise the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Under SOFA, the Korean authorities cannot investigate the tragedy because the 37,000 U.S. soldiers stationed there are immune from prosecution if they commit crimes against the Korean people.

Following days of protest demonstrations, the U.S. military announced on July 5 it had filed negligent homicide charges against the two soldiers in the vehicle, reversing an earlier decision not to court-martial the GIs. However, on July 10 south Korea's Justice Ministry requested that the U.S. military give up jurisdiction over the two soldiers. The Pentagon has yet to respond.

The Korean movement is asking for international solidarity actions, including a letter-writing campaign to President Bush and joint demonstrations in front of U.S. embassies and consulates on July 31. More information about this campaign can be found on the web sites www.koreatruthcommission.org and www.iacenter.org.




Bush effigy burned as US troops stand trial for girls' death

CAMP CASEY, South Korea (AFP) Nov 18, 2002



Protesters burned an effigy of US President George W. Bush and scuffled with police Monday as the trial began of a US soldier accused of killing two South Korean girls.

Anti-America sentiment has mounted here since a US military vehicle crushed the two 14-year-old school girls to death during a field drill five months ago.

Around 100 protesters rallied in front of Camp Casey, a US military base in Uijeongbu north of Seoul, as the US military court opened the trial of one of the two US soldiers who were in charge of the vehicle.

The protesters torched a large Bush effigy wrapped in the US flag and hurled hundreds of eggs at the barricaded US camp in a display of anger over the June 13 deaths.

For security reasons, only a small number of South Koreans, including officials and the victims' families, were allowed to attend the opening session of the court martial which is expected to last for three days.

Tempers flared at one point and some protesters kicked and punched riot police carrying shields and wearing helmets. But no arrests were made.

The demonstrators demanded that sergeants Mark Walker and Fernando Nino be handed over to South Korean justice rather than tried in a US court.

The anti-US demonstrators chanted: "Stop the US court martial! Hand over the jurisdiction to South Korea! Pull the US troops out of the country!"

The soldiers are accused of negligent homicide and could face up to six years in prison if found guilty.

They are being tried separately, with Nino's opening Monday and Walker's scheduled to follow.

"The court martial of Sergeant Mark Walker, the vehicle driver, is scheduled to begin Thursday or when Nino's trial concludes," the US military said in a presse release.

Since the incident, South Korean civic activists have staged demonstrations at US military bases in Seoul and other areas nationwide nearly every day.

Some 37,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea under a mutual defense treaty.

Critics say the military pact, aimed at deterring war on the world's last Cold War frontier, is unfair because it places US soldiers under US jurisdiction and beyond the reach of South Korean law.

The US military has rejected calls to hand the soldiers over to South Korean justice.

However, top US military officials including commanding General Leon LaPort have apologized over the deaths.

The South Korean girls were going to a friend's birthday party when they were crushed to death by the US vehicle used for lifting bridge sections.

Walker, who was at the wheel of the 3.66-metre wide (12-foot) vehicle in a convoy participating in a field exercise, has been quoted as saying he was on the radio and could not hear a warning about the girls from the vehicle commander Nino.




Korean anger as US soldiers cleared


Friday, 22 November, 2002, 15:37 GMT


A US soldier who drove over two South Korean girls with a military vehicle has been cleared by a US military court.

Sergeant Mark Walker, who was driving the 50-tonne armoured vehicle when the incident happened in June, was found not guilty of negligent homicide.

His colleague and the vehicle's navigator and commander, Sergeant Fernando Nino, was cleared of similar charges on Wednesday.

 The case, and the acquittals, have caused angry protests in South Korea and fanned anti-American sentiment - with opposition growing to the presence of 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea to counter threats from the Communist North.

Dismissing the court cases as a sham, demonstrators hurled eggs and paint into the military camp where the trials were being held, and vowed to protest again on Saturday.

Following Friday's acquittal, army commander Lieutenant General Charles Campbell repeated the US military's apology over the deaths, but defended its legal system.

"I want again to express my sincere apology and deepest sympathy to the families of Shim Mi-Son and Shin Hyon-Sun. This was a tragic loss of life and we are deeply sorry," he said in a statement.

"Taken together, the verdicts in the two trials that were rendered by two different impartial panels indicate that what occurred was a tragic accident without criminal culpability."

South Korea's ruling Millennium Democratic Party has condemned Wednesday's acquittal of Sergeant Fernando Nino, the vehicle commander.

"We cannot accept this fraudulent verdict, which is unimaginable in any law-abiding country," said spokeswoman Lee Mi-kyung, describing the decision as an "outrage to heaven and earth".

The party also called for revisions to be made to the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, which governs the legal treatment of US troops in South Korea.

The South Korean government had asked for jurisdiction in the case, but the US refused.

South Korea's Justice Ministry said it was "dissatisfied" by the verdict but respected the US process.

Shim Mi-sun and Shin Hyo-son, 14, were walking to a friend's birthday party on 13 June when they were mowed down by the US vehicle, which was taking part in a training exercise on the outskirts of Seoul.

The defence for Sergeant Nino argued that he alerted Sergeant Walker to the presence of the girls. The driver says he never heard the warning, because of an apparently defective communications system.