Gov't to Help Maehyang-ri Residents Repair Damage from USFK Training

June 05,2000

The essence of the countermeasures announced by the Defense Ministry on Monday after consultation with the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) to resolve problems caused by the U.S. military training in Maehyang-ri village is the adjustment of target area for the bombing and strafing drills by the U.S. Air Force. Relocating the strafing target to the sea would naturally adjust the approaching direction and flight altitude of U.S. fighters. This in turn would greatly reduce noise pollution, one of the greatest complaints by the villagers.

In the beginning, the USFK reportedly claimed that it would be extremely difficult to close its shooting range, as demanded by the Maehyang-ri villagers, as it is the only one available for training by the U.S. Air Force in Korea. Despite the difficulties, the two governments were able to reach an agreement based on the judgement that they should work to pacify the residents and prevent the issue from being aggravated. In the end, the two sides agreed on the compromise of "relocating the target area to the sea."

The joint South Korean-U.S. investigation team had announced on June 1 that Maehyang-ri residents did not suffer from any damage due to the recent bombing by an U.S. A-10 fighter on May 8. The announcement, however, served only to fuel the controversy. Maehyang-ri village residents, civic groups and students threatened to mobilize 10,000 people to stage a demonstration on June 6 and also forcibly occupy the controversial bombing range of the U.S. military facility. In such a case, clashes between the demonstrators and the South Korean government and the USFK would have been inevitable.

The Defense Ministry reportedly decided that it must resolve problems suffered by the Maehyang-ri residents to stop anti-American sentiment spreading any further before the inter-Korea summit talks. Anti-American sentiment has been recently intensifying due to the disclosure of an alleged massacre of Korean civilians in Nogun-ri village by the U.S. military in the early days of the Korean War and also due to the problem revision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The USFK, however, had reportedly remained passive in devising countermeasures, claiming a serious blow to its combat preparedness if the shooting range were to be closed.

Accordingly, the Defense Ministry spent the entire night last Friday discussing follow-up measures and came up with the compromise of relocating the target area. Lieutenant General Kim Chong-hwan, a military policy assistant, visited the USFK commander Gen. Thomas Schwartz to present the proposal and obtained his consent.

The military official said, "We are currently reviewing a plan of regulating the existing shooting range (957,000 sq. m) as a safety zone to ensure the safety of residents."

The Defense Ministry will place priority on offering speedy assistance to village residents who have suffered injuries or property damage from the May 8 bombing as it would take them a long time to receive compensation according to SOFA regulations and procedures.

To that end, the Defense Ministry will send military personnel and equipment to the village starting on June 7 to help repair reported damage such as cracked walls and broken windows. The ministry also plans to designate a private land compensation company to help the residents relocate from the village. A total of 65 billion won (approximately $58 million) is estimated to be necessary for the relocation.

by Kim Min-seok

매향리 사격장 종합 대책

국방부가 주한미군과 협의끝에 5일 발표한 매향리 사격장 종합대책의 핵심은 미공군 기총사격 표적지 조정이다.
 기총사격 표적지가 해상(海上)으로 이전되면 항공기 진입방향과 고도가 조정돼 가장 큰 민원인 소음공해가 크게 줄어들기 때문이다.
 당초 주한미군은 이 곳이 주한미공군의 유일한 사격훈련장이라는 점을 들어 주민들이 요구한 사격장 폐쇄에는 난색을 보였다고 한다.
 그럼에도 양측이 합의에 도달할 수 있었던데는 강력한 주민반발 등 더이상의 사태악화를 막아야 한다는 판단이 작용했고,고심끝에 '표적지 해상이동'이라는 절충안을 마련해낼 수 있었기 때문이다.
 ◇표적지 해상이동=한·미 합동조사단은 1일 지난달 8일의 미공군 A-10기 폭탄투하가 주민피해를 입히지 않았다고 발표했다.이 발표가 불에 기름을 부은 효과를 낳았다.매향리 주민들과 시민단체·학생들은 6일 1만명이 시위에 나서 사격장을 점거 농성하겠다고 선언했다.이럴 경우 시위대와 정부·미군 등 당국간의 충돌이 불가피하다.
 국방부는 남북정상회담을 앞두고 노근리·SOFA개정 문제 등으로 반미(反美)감정이 확산되는 추세에 매향리 사태까지 가세하는 것을 막아야 한다는 판단을 하게됐다고 한다.
 그러나 미군측은 이곳이 없어지면 전투대비태세에 치명적인 타격을 받게 된다는 입장을 보이며 대책마련에 소극적이었던 것으로 전해진다.
 이에따라 국방부는 지난 2일부터 밤샘 논의를 거듭한 끝에 표적지 조정안을 마련,김종환(金鍾煥·육군 중장)정책보좌관이 슈워츠 주한미군사령관을 찾아가 동의를 받았다.
 金보좌관은 "29만평의 기존사격장은 주민의 안전을 위해 안전지대로 두는 방안을 검토중"이라고 말했다.
 ◇피해주민 지원책=국방부는 우선 피해주민에 대한 지원을 우선적으로 해주기로 했다.한미행정협정(SOFA)규정과 절차에 따라 보상을 받으려면 많은 시간이 걸리기 때문이다.
 이를 위해 국방부는 군장비와 병력을 7일부터 투입한다.금이 간 건물과 깨진 유리창 등 신고가 접수된 피해를 먼저 보수해줄 방침이다.
 국방부는 주민의 개별이주를 지원하기 위해 토지보상 민간용역업체를 선정할 계획이다.이주비용은 6백50억원으로 추산된다.

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