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USFK Commander Reiterates Apology for Deaths of Two Schoolgirls

USFK Commander Reiterates Apology for Deaths of Two Schoolgirls

Posted June. 11, 2003 21:45,   


Prime Minister Goh Kun appealed to the public on June 11 to have a peaceful candlelight protest scheduled for Friday nationwide in memory of the schoolgirls killed a year ago by a U.S. military vehicle.

Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, Commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) also gave an apology in a statement on the same day.

Goh`s statement expressed deep condolences for the families of Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-sun on behalf of the government.

“I hope that the public will hold their protest on the first anniversary of the tragic accident peacefully and maintain order in a restrained and solemn manner,” he said. “The memorial service for the two schoolgirls should be carried out in a mature spirit so that this tragedy was not in vain,” he stressed.

In addition, Prime Minister Goh said, “It is beyond denial that the candlelight vigil, started with pure intentions last year, but had a negative impact on Korean-U.S. relations as well as the nation`s credit ratings. It also had an undesirable influence on the economy and society overall.”

In particular, he reiterated that the Korea-U.S. alliance is the buttress of the nation`s democracy and the economic development and contributes to national interests. “This is time to promote closer relations between the two countries in order to create stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Meanwhile, Gen. Leon J. LaPorte said in his statement, “We accept full responsibility for this tragic accident, and we offer our deepest apologies.” He also said that USFK will hold a memorial service for the two girls on Yongsan Army Base on June 13 and the second U.S. Infantry Division will also take a day off to have the service.

“The U.S. military will be vigilant in doing everything in our power to preclude an accident like this from ever happening again,” the top U.S. military official said. “We banned all heavy vehicles of the same kind at the time from running on country roads and came up with safety measures including notifying residents of troop movements in advance.”

Sang-Ho Yun Seung-Ryun Kim ysh1005@donga.com srkim@donga.com