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President Kim Orders Improvement of SOFA

Posted December. 03, 2002 22:46,   


As for the case of two teenage girls hit and killed by a US armored vehicle, President Kim Dae-jung Dec. 3 ordered related government agencies to map out steps to prevent such cases and prepare a revision draft to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs the legal status of 37,000 US troops stationed in Korea, under the guidance of the Office of the Prime Minister in preparation for the upcoming ROK-US Security Consultative Meeting.

Park Sun-sook, a senior presidential secretary, quoted President Kim in a Cabinet meeting on that day as saying, "Though SOFA was changed like that of Germany and Japan last year, but once such an accident occurred, we could improve the Korea-US alliance into a forward-looking one by revising SOFA once again."

According to the President’s order, Prime Minister Kim Suk-soo will hold a ministerial meeting on Dec. 4 in which ministers of Education and Human Resource Development, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Justice, Defense, Government Affairs and Home Administration, and Construction and Transportation will discuss steps to revise SOFA, tighten security of US facilities and prevent similar cases.

The Ministry of Justice made an announcement Dec. 3 that it will do its efforts to reach an agreement with the US to have Korean law enforcement officers participate in a criminal investigation at the initial stage when a criminal case involving US servicemen takes place.

An official with the ministry said, "A subcommittee in the Korea-US Joint Committee is discussing ways to allow the Korean prosecution or police to participate in an investigation when an accident involving US servicemen in line of duty happens and it is trying to put the agreement in a statutory form."

Meanwhile, 32 lawmakers including Rep. Park Myung-hwan of the Grand National Party (GNP) and Jeong Dong-young of the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) submitted a resolution calling for revision of unfair SOFA to the National Assembly and they also called on US President George W. Bush to make an apology with his own lips for the death of two girls.

The resolution includes the call for revision of SOFA in order to make the Korean government have jurisdiction over serious criminal cases related to US serviceman while carrying out their official duties. It also urged the Korean government to strengthen the investigation into cases related to US servicemen and set up a special organization in charge of crimes committed by US servicemen.

The National Assembly is scheduled to discuss the resolution at an extraordinary session slated for January of 2003.

At a meeting with Rep. Lee Bu-young of GNP and Shin Gi-nam of MDP, Thomas C. Hubbard, US ambassador to Seoul, Dec. 3 said, "We are ready to talk about revision of SOFA in detail with the Korean government." But he added that the issue of jurisdiction is the same as that in the agreements with other countries, so it should not be a negotiable item.

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