UPDATE 2: The Battle of Pyeongtaek appears to have ended in a rout. And there was much sorrow and shattered dreams of reunification:
UPDATE: NoCut News is reporting that the you can pretty much stick a fork in the protesters. A couple of die-hards are holding out, but their situation doesn’t look good. The National Police Agency says it will bring before the law all violent protesters from Pyeongtaek. I wouldn’t bet on that, but who knows.
ORIGINAL POST: Korea has invaded Pyeongtaek:
Thousands of police Thursday scuffled with hundreds of farmers, civic activists and anti-U.S. students in an area designated for expanded U.S. military facilities. There have been no immediate reports of casualties, according to police.
The Defense Ministry sent some 3,000 troops, including 600 military engineers, and about 700 civilian security personnel and heavy equipment to build a barbed wire fence around the area. Engineers started setting up the wire fence earlier Thursday morning.
3,000 troops… that’s roughly what Korea has stationed in Iraq. Infantry apparently accounted for around 2,000 of them. The National Police Agency deployed some 11,500 men to the area around Camp Humphreys to conduct eviction operations, which reportedly started at around 6:00 a.m. (“I love the smell of tear gas in the morning”).
So far, about 10 people have been reported injured, although this number is likely to climb as police press on with their mission.
Needless to say, OhMyNews is bringing you its outstanding blend of stellar war photography and agitprop.
An interesting side note is that at least one of the Defense Ministry’s operational plans was apparently leaked to a civic group and made public by the protesters during a press conference yesterday, although the military is denying that the leaked information had anything to do with their battle plans.
Amids the chaos, one wonders how that joint-struggle is going:
In response to the news, protesters called on all supporters to gather at the school and make a stand. Already leaflets have compared the situation to the 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising, which was bloodily suppressed, and now there are slogans in the vein of, “We will unite with the workers of the North to fight against the U.S.,” all of which bodes ill for the eviction.
Apparently, the Chosun Ilbo was quoting Korean Confederation of Trade Unions general secretary Kim Tae-il, who said Thursday:
“During the May 1 North-South Workers’ Rally in Pyongyang, the workers of North and South agreed to unify to carry out the anti-American struggle… The center of that struggle with the United States is Daechu-ri, Pyeongtaek.”
FROM THE FRONT LINES: As of 9:45, police have taken the playground of Daechuri Elementary School. Only the school building remains. Most of the civic group demonstrators are stuck in the school, although some 200 [university] students are apparently mixing it up with police—according to OhMyNews, they won’t last long. Some 50 people have been transported to a local hospital with various injuries.
You know, what I don’t get is this—clearly, by both accepting the USFK relocation plan and using force to clear out the demonstrators, Seoul wants the United States to stay. Yet not once have I heard anyone—at least not on the Korean side—explain just why the U.S. troop presence is so critical that not only is Seoul apparently willing to take a less-than-satisfactory deal to relocate U.S. bases, but is also willing to crack skulls to get it done. Instead, we get crap like this out of President Roh:
“So far, we have made a success through dependence on the U.S. Now it’s time to choose an independent course of diplomacy,” the president said at an American chapter meeting of the National Unification Advisory Council in Seoul.
“But living a dependent life is different from living independently and maintaining a close friendship. The two countries will remain friends forever.” [Please read Joshua's take on this]
Hey, fine if you want to choose an independent course of diplomacy. An independent course of diplomacy, however, should begin with an independent course of security, or else your independent diplomacy don’t mean jack shit in the end. But what we end up seeing is a willingness on the part of the Roh administration to continue to host U.S. troops on Korean soil, to pay a substantial portion of the relocation and base construction costs, to evict farmers from their land and to back it all up by deploying a small army to Pyeongtaek. Heck, I’ll even grant Roh that states can “independently” decide, as part of their “independent” diplomacy, to play host to the armed forces of other states. But there needs to be an explanation why. And I’m not hearing one, other than this is necessary to ensure good relations with an ally, which ain’t good enough.