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Bases for Reflection: The History and Politics of U.S. Military Bases in South Korea
Unformatted Document Text:  26 undoubtedly reinforced by a public school system that is dominated by leftist teachers’ union members, where criticism of U.S. imperialism is part of the curriculum. “Unfair SOFA” It was the events of Kwangju that first turned South Korean protestors against the United States military presence in their country. As the 1980 and 90s wore on and democratization went forward, the protests stopped being about democratic rights, and started resembling those in other democratic countries elsewhere in the world. They began centering around issues such as oil leakages, chemical spills, and other environmental problems associated with the bases, and also around the commission of crimes by U.S. troops—especially those related to property damage by drunken soldiers in the base towns at night, and violence against barmaids and prostitutes. Yet the earlier association of the U.S. military presence with authoritarianism undoubtedly gave the base issues particular salience in the minds of the protestors. South Korean civic action groups began to coalesce around basing issues, and to reach out to their counterparts in other countries to share notes and improve their political effectiveness. 43 By 2001 they also began to turn to attorneys who filed lawsuits seeking compensation for wrongs that had been committed. Usually, because of the SOFA provisions, that compensation came from the South Korean government. 44 43 “Civic Group to Campaign in US for SOFA Revision,” Korea Times, Sept. 19, 2000; “Japan Activists Visit for Joint Strategy on U.S. Bases,” Korea Times, May 18, 2001; “Joint Civic Body for USFK Issues to Be Established,” Korea Times, July 16, 2001. Also see Moon, “Korean Nationalism,” p. 145. 44 Kang Seok-jae, “NGOs to Launch Body for Legal Action on U.S. Troop Related Incidents,” Korea Herald, Apr. 17, 2001; “Maehyang-ri Residents File Compensation Suit,” Korea Times, Aug. 14, 2001; Moon, “Korean Nationalism,” p. 147.

Authors: Marten, Kimberly.
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26
undoubtedly reinforced by a public school system that is dominated by leftist teachers’
union members, where criticism of U.S. imperialism is part of the curriculum.
“Unfair SOFA”
It was the events of Kwangju that first turned South Korean protestors against the United
States military presence in their country. As the 1980 and 90s wore on and
democratization went forward, the protests stopped being about democratic rights, and
started resembling those in other democratic countries elsewhere in the world. They
began centering around issues such as oil leakages, chemical spills, and other
environmental problems associated with the bases, and also around the commission of
crimes by U.S. troops—especially those related to property damage by drunken soldiers
in the base towns at night, and violence against barmaids and prostitutes. Yet the earlier
association of the U.S. military presence with authoritarianism undoubtedly gave the base
issues particular salience in the minds of the protestors. South Korean civic action
groups began to coalesce around basing issues, and to reach out to their counterparts in
other countries to share notes and improve their political effectiveness.
43
By 2001 they
also began to turn to attorneys who filed lawsuits seeking compensation for wrongs that
had been committed. Usually, because of the SOFA provisions, that compensation came
from the South Korean government.
44
43
“Civic Group to Campaign in US for SOFA Revision,” Korea Times, Sept. 19, 2000; “Japan Activists
Visit for Joint Strategy on U.S. Bases,” Korea Times, May 18, 2001; “Joint Civic Body for USFK Issues to
Be Established,” Korea Times, July 16, 2001. Also see Moon, “Korean Nationalism,” p. 145.
44
Kang Seok-jae, “NGOs to Launch Body for Legal Action on U.S. Troop Related Incidents,” Korea
Herald, Apr. 17, 2001; “Maehyang-ri Residents File Compensation Suit,” Korea Times, Aug. 14, 2001;
Moon, “Korean Nationalism,” p. 147.


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