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Issue 242 [11.23]
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Tae Guk Gi and Stars & Stripes
Six Pary Talks
Asian Peace Philosophy
☞ Issue 129
Summary of the Problem of the Mugeonri ROK-US Joint-Use Training Area
Written by Pan-Korean Committee against the Expansion of the Mugun-ri Military Training Fields, http://www.peaceoh.net/
Translation by Agatha Haun http://www.tlaxcala.es/
The Progressive Expansion of the Mugeonri Training Area
1980: In the vicinity of Mugeonri, a village in the Paju township, Kyeonggi Province, 3,500,000 pyeong of land (more than 10.5 million square meters) are cleared, followed by continuous expansion of the area after that.
1986: Up to this year the training area was expanded to 5,500,000 pyeong (more than 16.5 million square meters). All the residents who lived in Mugeonri at that time were evicted, and some of them moved to Ohyeonri. Now it is expected that the training ground will expand into that area.
1996: There are plans for enlarging the training area again, to 10,500,000 pyeong (more than 31.5 million square meters).
2008, September: A rushed announcement is made, afterward evaluation and assessment in Ohyeonri is moved forward.
2009: At present, the great majority of the residents do not accede to the National Defense Ministry's plan to buy them out, and appeasement and threats are used to win them over.
In September last year, residents protested against the National Defense Ministry's high-handed evaluation and assessment methods. Because of that, in connection with the illegal arrest of some residents, and the investigations that were set in motion, residents were summoned and compelled to make written apologies. This ran parallel with disgraceful coercion and pressure on residents.
The nature of the Mugeonri training area
As the only joint type of large-scale training area in the north part of Kyeonggi Province, it has been used for practicing the military strategy of an offensive against the North. It is expected that from now on it will seriously hinder the peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula.
On the basis of an agreement between the ROK and the US, the land was offered to the US military as a training area. It has become an international training ground, used not only by the USFK, but also troops based on Guam, Okinawa, and even the US mainland. This means that this training area was prepared for the purpose of permitting the US to carry out its new military strategy, based on "strategic flexibility", which allows the USFK to conduct offensive operations outside the boundaries of the ROK.
Residents of Ohyeonri living in the area where the enlargement of the training area is planned
Currently there are more than 200 residents, living in more than 100 households. They live mainly by raising livestock and farming. It is a handsome village with beautiful scenery and many natural monuments. During the more than 30 years since the training area was first created, the residents have endured the suffering caused by the noise of tanks and so on during training exercises. In the meantime, the state, far from paying any compensation for the harm suffered by the residents, now is again trying to force their eviction. The majority of residents are outraged by this violence and oppose it.
The residents' demands
Out of the entire area planned for the expansion of the training ground, more than 9,300,000 pyeong (over 28 million square meters), essentially 8,400,000 pyeong (more than 25.2 million square meters) is now secured by the Ministry of National Defense. In connection with this, on the occasion of the inspection of government offices, some National Assembly members asked the Minister of Defense why the military cannot conduct exercises in the training area in its present condition. Lee Sang Hee, the Minister of Defense explained that the training space had already been sufficiently enlarged, and that the residents were being made to remove simply for the sake of their own safety and security.
However, in the middle of the training area where the village is situated, there is a national highway where every day several hundred thousand vehicles pass by. If one looks at it in light of the fact that there were already military units within the training area, this is merely an unconvincing, deceitful answer. The residents have already been living there for several decades already without any problem at all and training has gone on, and since the Minister of Defense himself said that the space needed for training had been enlarged enough, the residents demand that they be allowed to continue to live in their homes. Along with compensation for harm caused by living inside the training area, the residents are demanding the construction of sidewalks, in order to put an end to the danger caused by the careless driving of tanks. (In fact, this is the place where two middle school girls were run down and killed by a US armored vehicle in 2002.)
The need for international solidarity
As has been mentioned, this place is being used by the US as a training area for the purpose of implementing the aggressive, new military strategy that it intends to follow in Northeast Asia. Even so, although at present the US military has somewhat reduced its training exercises here, because of the residents' struggle, it is expected that if the residents all are expelled and forced to leave, the US military forces' training will proceed in earnest. (Due to an agreement between the ROK and the US, it was decided already that the US forces would use more than half the entire number of training days (91 days).)
It is clear that this increases tension in Northeast Asia and has become a serious obstacle to reconciliation and cooperation between South and North Korea. Deepening military antagonism on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia has become a major challenge to the peace of the entire world. Accordingly, the struggle to prevent the enlargement of the Mugeonri training area must become an significant concern and a matter of solidarity among the peace-loving people of the entire world.
We hope for your international solidarity and support for the Ohyeonri residents' hard struggle!
Candle light vigil
About Mugeonri training center
* For more reference*
Realignment of U.S. Forces in Korea and Changes in US-ROK Military Alliance(Oct 2008)
http://usacrime.or..kr/ (Check English in the top right)
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