Today's the big anniversary, and all the usual hate groups are out in force, although if OhMyNews is anything to go by, things appear relatively well-behaved. As well they should - the Korean government has 10,000 riot police stationed all around the US Embassy. Shit, the US has successfully invaded countries with less men. Police buses seem to have all the access points to the Embassy cut off; again, I'm going by the OhMyNews reports. The processioners attempted several times to advance to the embassy, only to have those attempts rebuffed by riot police. Apparently, part of the remembrance ceremony called for the participants to use their candles to burn small paper American flags while shouting demands for SOFA revision and an end to the threat of war on the peninsula (as you know, that's us Yanks' fault). Police estimates say 20,000 people participated in the Seoul rally, although OhMyNews's reporters put the number at 30,000.
Photos over at OhMyNews also suggests that a large number of children participated in the demonstrations; this would seem to be confirmed by the Korea Times:
``I am here to show my son how distorted the relations between Korea and the U.S. are,’’ said one of the participants, a Korean National Railroad employee who came with his eight-year-old son.Lovely. The Times also reports that:
The crowd chanted slogans that called for the punishment of the U.S. soldiers responsible for the deaths of the two girls. They chanted; ``Let’s prevent war through candles,’’ and ``Go Home, U.S. soldiers.’’ They also demanded revisions of the Status of Forces Agreement that governs U.S. troops stationed here and a personal apology from U.S. President George W. Bush.I will report more on this as I get more information. I'll try to link you to film media when I get it.
BTW, here are some editorials dealing with today's festivities:
It's been one year since two middle school girls were run down from behind in broad daylight by a speeding American armored vehicle.
But the facts behind the tragedy still remain unclear, no American soldiers have been punished, and the unfair status of forces agreement remains the same.
Rather, everyday the US speaks of even "attacking the North's nuclear facilities", and the black cloud of war is descending upon both North and South.
The profuse but reluctant apologies - from the two soldiers to the commander of the U.S. Forces Korea to Secretary of State Colin Powell and finally to Bush himself - only came in proportion with the public's anger. The uproar was an understandable response to the U.S. military's double standards on human rights and law enforcement. The dispute centered on the impartial SOFA, but it has yet to be revised to grant Korea sufficient jurisdiction on crimes committed by U.S. servicemen.
The year-long protest brought about some improvement in the Status of Forces Agreement defining the legal status of U.S. troops stationed here, regarded by many Koreans as a most unfair treaty between the two countries.
It also helped all of us become aware of our national pride and dignity, thanks to the patriotic zeal of young people who have now emerged as a powerful social element.
Some other cool stuff - check out the Hankyoreh's photo collection for the one-year anniversary. Yep, those really are 1) middle school girls holding up a sign saying "Fucking USA," 2) letters from elementary school kids saying "Die, America!" 3) a bounty placed on the head of one the "murders" [I saw those posters plastered all over Uijeongbu when I lived in the area], 4) and a mass, synchronized flag desecration, among other interesting things. Also, I should point out that unlike last year, there is some debate, quite colorful at times, going on in the reader comments sections of the Hankyoreh and OhMyNews. There would appear, and this is only at first glance, that there are a lot of Koreans genuinely uncomfortable with this year's rallies - "commie bastard" is being thrown around quite a lot. Coincidentally, I was shocked to see someone write into OhMyNews saying, and I shit you not here, that if Korea wants to change its SOFA with the US, it [the ROK] first has to change its SOFA treaties with Kuwait and Afghanistan, which are even less generous to the host nation. The writer asks, "What if one of our soldiers in Kuwait got into an accident while on duty, and he went to a Kuwaiti jail? How would that affect morale?"