SEOUL, South Korea, AP
Seventeen South Korean students were detained Tuesday after barging into the main U.S. military base in central Seoul to protest the deaths of two teenage girls fatally struck by an American military vehicle.
“Yankee go home!” shouted the students, who ran 50 meters (54 yards) inside the main gate of Yongsan Army Garrison, the headquarters of the 8th U.S. Army. U.S. military police and South Korean police detained them after a scuffle, according to witnesses and a statement from the U.S. command.
The protesters were removed from the base in less than 10 minutes and were held in custody at Yongsan Police Station for questioning, South Korean police said.
“The quick reactions by our installation security force and military police quelled the intrusion quickly,” the U.S. statement quoted Col. Peter Champagne, the military police commander, as saying.
“This was a difficult situation because they were being kicked and physically assaulted by many of the trespassers,” he said.
Two American military policemen and an Army lieutenant were “kicked and pummeled” by the protesters but were not seriously injured, said Lee Ferguson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military command.
“The injuries were mostly bruising, and none of them was hospitalized,” she said.
One student was hospitalized with a severe bruise on his ribs, said South Korean police Sgt. Lee Hee-sung.
The students shouted slogans calling for the withdrawal of 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and demanded that two U.S. soldiers whose vehicle killed the schoolgirls be tried in a South Korean court.
The protesters belong to Hanchongryon, an activist student group outlawed because South Korean authorities believe its anti-U.S. military and other demands benefit the communist North Korea.
Sgt. Mark Walker and Sgt. Fernando Nino, of the 2nd Infantry Division, were on a training mission near the border with North Korea on June 13 when their armored bridge carrier hit 14-year-old Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun on a public road.
They were later indicted on charges of negligent homicide.