[VIEWPOINT]The pain behind the joy

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[VIEWPOINT]The pain behind the joy

We were so happy during June.

As the Korean soccer team continued its journey to the quarterfinals, defeating world soccer heavyweights along the way, all Koreans became Red Devils, chanting, "Dae Han Min Guk." Millions of people across the country enjoyed festivals in the streets.

But maybe we were too happy. While we were enchanted by soccer, things occurred, things that we should not overlook.

One of those events was the death of Jeon Dong-rok. Mr. Jeon, 54, lost his hearing and both arms when he received an electric shock from a 22,900-volt power line maintained by U.S. troops in July 2001 at a construction site in Gyeonggi province.

He struggled against his injuries but died on June 6.

The United States Army denied legal responsibility and offered only 600,000 won ($500) as a goodwill gesture. Grieving relatives and friends tried to enter Seoul to hold a street memorial service after the funeral on June 10 only to be blocked by the police. Some people were injured during the confrontation.

That was the day the World Cup fever was in full swing, the day the Korean national team played the U.S. squad.

Three days later, two middle school girls, Shin Hyo-sun, 14, and Shim Mi-seon, 14, were on their way to a friend's birthday party. They were run over by a heavy vehicle operated by the U.S. military in Yangju country, Gyeonggi province.

The tragedy of two middle school students, which was buried under the excitement of the World Cup in the beginning, later gained more attention as a civic group organized a task force and had a confrontation with the U.S. military over how exactly the accident occurred.

The victims' families have filed suit against six U.S. soldiers, including the driver and vehicle commander, at the district office and reported the case to the Human Rights Commission.

They also asked that the U.S. Army be requested to waive the appropriate clauses in the Status of Forces Agreement governing U.S. forces stationed in Korea so that the case could be investigated by Korean authorities.

"We are living in this rare time where we experience joy and pain at the same time," the Reverend Mun Jeong-hyeon wrote on an Internet bulletin board.

"We cannot think of the World Cup separately from our daily life."

There are many other neighbors who are suffering: Street vendors who were forced to abandon their "illegal" livelihoods and the medical labor union members who have been on strike for more than a month are among the people who now need our help.

If what we experienced in the World Cup was a sense of unity overcoming regional, age or social differences, then maybe now is the time to shift our attention to our neighbors so we can share our joy and pain.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Han Cheon-soo

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