“Is Korea ‘Dogani’ as a whole?” … Demands for SOFA revision spread like a wild fire

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in a progressive online news agency, Newsface, on September 30, 2011 about a sexual violence case committed by a US soldier to an 18-year old Korean high school girl in Dongducheon, Geonggi-do, Korea. According to reports by Korean news papers, the school girl had to suffer heinous sexual abuses by the US soldier over 4 hours in September 24, 2011. The outcries by Koreans against this case stems out from the fact that the criminal who even admitted the crime himself cannot be put into police custody and prosecuted accordingly since his position as a US soldier is secured by an agreement between KOR-US whose revision has been requested repetitively by Koreans but has not made any progress due to lack of cooperation from US government. Since this is an unauthoritative translation, full rights still stay with the original author of the article or with ‘Newsface’. This post will be scrapped with the request by the original author or by ‘Newface’. The original article (in Korean) can be located from the link at the bottom.

Netizens furious on sexual violence crime by a US soldier in Dongducheon

Korean twitter-verse sizzles as the story about sexual violence crime committed by a US soldier to a high school girl in Dongducheon spreads belatedly among Koreans. In particular, voices demanding quick revision of the ROK-US Agreement on Status of Force in Korea (SOFA) grow among netizens. Despite apologies from US government officials and US army 2nd infantry division commander, voices “not to put up with such crimes any more” continue.

Some of opinions in twitter-verse are like, “We should not be trampled like this any more. We should demand things fair and square”, “Throw SOFA to dogs. It should have been revised already but politicians do not seem to go for it at all”, “I am ashamed a lot to be a Korean”, “A US GI admitted to intrude into a high school girl’s room, to threat her with a knife and to sexually violate her but we cannot arrest him. How does it make sense?”

One netizen, comparing it to movie <Dogani> that became a social phenomenon recently, noted “The whole country is a ‘Dogani’ that is violated by US army.” Another netizen lamented, “‘Dogani’ is still going on.”

Jae-hyun Hur, a power twitterin and a reporter of daily <Hankyoreh>, quipped “We should revise SOFA soon … Who is the government working for? To me, it looks like another US agency.” One netizen thundered, “Police who cannot say anything to US army who violated their own school girl but fire water cannons at and forcibly suppress college students who demand lower tuition fees.”

Another netizen criticized “Let’s change US made SOFA. It’s too hard and dirty to use. Voices demanding SOFA revision come out every time big incident happens but die out soon every time since we don’t care enough. We should stay firm behind our government to demand revision fair and square.”

“SOFA must be revised. How come we cannot put a US GI into custody even though he sexually violated our own school girl. How many toxic articles there are in KOR-US FTA agreement! It may contain full SOFA furniture complex.”

Diverse reactions from twitterians followed. “SOFA? Sofabed? Whatever. How come there can be an agreement that you can commit any crime”, “He should be punished by our own law”, “Korea is not a US colony. How can you say this is a governance by law of a sovereign country”, “This is the current status of KOR-US blood brotherhood”, “Does this mean we give up our sovereignty as far as US army is concerned?”

And “So much like Mi-soon, Hyo-soon case. SOFA must be revised this time”, “We really need to get him in our custody. We should punish him in our own court”, “No more quick and short outbursts to incidents. We should tie loose end tight this time”, “Should we believe in this kind of country?” also appeared in twitter.

Felony but not detained … KOR-US officials tried to quell it immediately

According to Dongducheon police, Gyeonggi-do, a US army 2nd infantry division private K (21) went into a gositel in Dongducheon downtown in full drunk, sexually violated a high school girl A (18) who were watching TV, and ran away in September 24. Police, confirming private K through gositel CCTV examination, notified this to US army and private K came to police and interrogated in September 26. Police handed over the case to prosecution in September 28 but private K was not detained right away. This is due to current SOFA agreement which dictates that Korean government cannot detain any US soldier unless he is caught during the act of rape or murder.

Regarding this, Rep. Se-hwan Jang, a member of Democratic Party and a member of Administration and Security Committee of National Assembly, pitched high “police interrogated private K without putting the suspect into custody and raised the reason that he was not caught in action. Police who begin to be recognized as an rightful investigation agency abandoned their right of investigation people have endowed them by investigating a case that is naturally granted to detain the suspect without actually doing it.”

Chang-hyeon Shin, deputy speaker of Democratic Labor Party (DLP), claimed in a comment “How can we say this is a sovereign country if we cannot investigate a case with the suspect who committed felony to our own people in our custody? Government should seek for all possible measures to direct police to rightfully put private K who committed a felony crime into our custody and to punish him.”

Deputy speaker Shin said, “Denunciations about SOFA that it is an unequal agreement seriously infringing our own sovereignty are not matters of days. Notwithstanding, our government and US authorities avoided criticisms by saying that they would ‘review’ and ‘consider’ toxic articles whenever national fury erupted but did not do anything practical” and emphasized the need for SOFA revision.

As ripples from the incident grow, US government as well as our own tried to quell them immediately. Edward Cardon, the commander of 2nd infantry division, announced in September 28 that he expressed “deep regrets” to this case and apologized sincerely “to family members of the victim and Korean people.”

High ranking US officials also tried to mend the situation. Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and William J Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, expressed their regrets to Duck-soo Han, the Korean Ambassador to US, in phone calls. They also said that “US government would work closely with Korean government to make thorough investigation of the incident possible.”

Byeong-je Cho, speaker of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, announced at a regular briefing in September 29 that “Korean government will proceed fair and quick judicial steps according to SOFA regulations on this incident.” It is known that the prosecution will seek for arrest warrant as early as October 1 based on private K’s confession and ask US army to hand him over to proceed further investigation.

Such quick reactions from both governments seem to be due to lessons learned from allout anti-US sentiments in 2002 they experienced in the aftermaths of US armored vehicle incidents. [In that incident, two middle school girls were run over and killed by a US armored vehicle but none were held responsible for it.] Besides, some claim that they worried this case could cause cracks between KOR-US relations at the face of President Myung-bak Lee’s state visit to US next month.

Meanwhile, Northern Gyeonggi Progress Solidarity will hold a press conference in front of Camp Casey, Dongducheon, in September 30 morning and demand immediate arrest of private K, an apology by US President Barack Obama, and the revision of SOFA.

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