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Hanchongnyon’s Demonstration Causes Diplomatic Concerns

Hanchongnyon’s Demonstration Causes Diplomatic Concerns

Posted August. 08, 2003 21:40,   


The student activist group Hanchongnyon’s latest and most provocative rally, in which members barged onto a US military target range and climbed atop a tank, is stirring up a diplomatic controversy. After the incident, public criticism has been hurled at the government for being too generous toward the outlawed students’ group, raising concerns over its recent move to seriously consider legalizing the student group and taking off names of students from the prosecution’s wanted list.

The U.S. military urged the government Friday to prosecute a dozen students who forced their way into one of its shooting ranges and the government promised to take stern action against those involved in the incident. Yet for now, the controversy will intensify further.

“The U.S. 8th Army strongly supports the right to peacefully assemble, the right to free speech and the right to express differing opinions, yet does not condone illegal entry into military installations or violent actions. The US army expects the Korean government to take a tougher measure against those in violation of laws," the 8th U.S. Army said in a news release.

“It is unfortunate that US soldiers who are conducting high levels of training to defend the Republic of Korea are disrupted by a student radical group,” Lt. Gen. Charles Campbell added.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry, Wie Sung-rak, said in a press briefing Friday, “The Korean government sees the student activist group’s rally as an illegal act. The students went too far by climbing atop a tank and burning an American flag. These actions cannot be condoned under any circumstances.”

He went on to say, “The government is exchanging opinions on the incident with the U.S. Although we are unable to comment on what the U.S. has said regarding this incident, we can say that they share the same view as the Korean government.”

A Defense Ministry spokesman said in a statement, “The student activist group’s illegal act will threaten not only the Korea-U.S. alliance but also our national security, which cannot be tolerated anymore. A similar incident must not occur again,” promising stern action on the part of the government against any illegal acts. Ahn Chang-ho, a prosecutor at the supreme prosecutors’ office, said, “Regardless of the U.S. 8th Army’s formal request for harsh punishments against those students, the prosecution is planning to take stern action against students who participated in the rally.”

The prosecution is now considering taking legal action against all participants, including organizers of the illegal demonstration. To this end, the prosecution ordered district prosecutors’ offices and police stations to gather related information on the rally.

Kim Suk-joon, the head of a Korean civic group, was commenting on the students’ illegal demonstration when he said, “Some hardliners within the group, which they have thought is in a identity crisis because of the government’s generous stance on the group, seemed to have the intention of clarifying its identity by displaying its anti-American sentiment.”

Furthermore, a group of reserve officers issued a statement criticizing the illegal rally and demanded that the government clamp down on Hanchongyon, impose tougher measures against participants and organizers of the rally, immediately suspend its plan to legalize the student group and not remove members of the radical student group from the prosecution’s wanted list. However, the policy director at the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a Korean civic group, said, “It is reasonable to point out that the way the students acted at the demonstration was not proper. Yet the matter is separate and distinct from its legalization, so the government should not be swayed by the incident when it considers the student group’s legalization.”

Police in the Pocheon and Uijeongbu districts asked the prosecution to issue arrest warrants against 12 members of Hanchongnyon on August 8.

The police also asked for the issuance of arrest warrants against two reporters from an Internet news media group who took pictures of the students staging the violent demonstration at a U.S. military training ground.

The police said members of the outlawed group penetrated a US military target range on Thursday afternoon and climbed onto a tank chanting, “We oppose war on the Korean Peninsula.”