Thursday, September 14, 2006
Korean village yields to U.S. basePYEONGTAEK, South Korea (AP) -- Hundreds of workers started bulldozing part of a village on Wednesday to clear the way for the expansion of a U.S. military base set to become the Americans' new headquarters.
The government's move comes amid sometimes violent protests in which local residents and anti-U.S. protesters in the village of Daechuri, inside Pyeongtaek city, have clashed with police and the military over the base.
"Stop, the forced removal of houses," several activists chanted on the rooftop of an empty house which will be scheduled to be destroyed.
No clash was reported yet between residents and police as workers were bulldozing the village, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Seoul.
Several villages around Pyeongtaek, a city of 360,000 people, would have to be razed for construction of the base. The government has offered residents financial compensation to move out of their homes, but some residents have strongly objected to the plans.
Some 90 houses in Daechuri would be removed by this week, said an official handling the issue at the Defense Ministry. He asked not to be identified, citing policy.
In May, the South Korean government evicted protesters from the village by force, but more than 220 local residents and anti-U.S. activists remain in some 100 houses -- about half of the houses in the village, according to an activist group opposed to the expansion plans. The government is not planning to destroy the houses being occupied.
"We will block the government's move in a peaceful manner," said activist leader Park Rae-gun.
Local residents, mostly in their 60s and 70s, voiced their strong resentment against the expansion plans and vowed not to leave from their houses.
"What can I do for a living if I leave. I should live here by protecting our land," said Hwang Pil-soon, a 76 year-old female farmer, adding she does not need government compensation.
Some 16,000 police were standing by and a helicopter was hovering over the area.
The United States plans to move its military headquarters from Seoul and some other bases to Pyeongtaek by 2008 as part of a consolidation of its forces.
About 29,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help defend it from communist North Korea.
The two Koreas remain in a state of conflict as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Category: South America and News.