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[Editorial] SOFA should not End Up as Only Campaign Issue

[Editorial] SOFA should not End Up as Only Campaign Issue

Posted December. 03, 2002 22:50,   


President Kim Dae-jung was right when he ordered his government to prepare measures to improve the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) governing the legal status of 37,000 US troops stationed in Korea, considering the rising anti-American sentiment. Presidential candidates also called for revision of SOFA in one voice.

However, we should stress that politicians should not use the issue of SOFA as part of campaign strategies. Of course, the call for revision of SOFA resulted from the public’s anger about the acquittal of two US soldiers whose armored vehicle hit and killed two teenage girls. But over the long term, revision of SOFA is also necessary in improving the ROK-US relation in the right direction. The situation in which political circles respond to the issue in a way to attract votes and swallow their words after the end of the election should never happen.

So far the Korean government stopped short of revision of SOFA. It is in consultation with the US in order to map out measures to improve SOFA such as giving the Korean police investigative right and allowing them to participate in preliminary investigations before the transfer of the custody of the suspect. However, once the issue was raised, the Korean government should take a somewhat aggressive attitude to change what should be revised in SOFA. For example, even if an incident involving US servicemen while performing their official duties happens, a Korean court should hear the case for the first time, when it is related to life and property of Korean people. The importance of Korean court having jurisdiction should be confirmed in this incident that led two girls to die.

Next year celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Korean-US relation, and we should cherish and preserve it. In this context, we should use this incident as an opportunity to strengthen the alliance. Students and civic groups staging anti-US protests should refrain from emotional reactions and wait and see the government’s efforts to improve SOFA. They should realize that illegal, violent protests like attempts to storm into US bases are not conducive to national interest at all.