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Maehyang-ri residents win court battle

Posted April. 11, 2001 18:44,   


Residents of Maehyang-ri have won a court battle, which sparked a social debate over the legitimacy of the Korean government`s compensation for damage inflicted to its people by U.S. military drills.

The ruling, the first of its kind, is expected to affect the government`s current deliberations on how to address the complaints of residents of Maehyang-ri, Kyonggi Province. It is also likely to spark similar lawsuits by others living near U.S. bases.

Seoul District Judge Jang Jun-Hyeon Monday ordered the Korean government to pay 132 million won in compensation to 14 residents of Maehyang-ri, including Chon Man-kyu, who sued the government for financial, physical and mental damage they suffered as a result of their exposure and proximity to the U.S. military shooting range.

In a statement upon handing down the ruling, judges noted that inspection results found 130 decibels (Db) of noise occurring during U.S. military drills in the shooting range, more than double the level of 50dB that usually happen in general residential areas. ``The illegality of U.S. drills was recognized as the quality of life of residents deteriorated sharply due to the noise,`` said the presiding judge.

The court found the government responsible because it has taken few measures to solve the problem in more than 20 years since residence began asking the government and U.S. Army for measures to reduce the noise level. ``We estimated the damage at 10.8 million won per person but as they asked for only some 10 million won we ordered as much in compensation,`` the judge explained.

The residents filed the suit in February 1998, complaining about physical and mental damage caused to Maehyang-ri residents as well as their houses and livestock since the shooting range was built in 1952 and has been used by the U.S. Air Force for drills.