[EDITORIALS]Aftermath of a tragedyCivic groups' protests have spread nationwide following the acquittals of two U.S. soldiers who were court-martialed on charges of negligent homicide in the deaths of two South Korean girls. The demonstrations have become more and more violent; Molotov cocktails were thrown into a U.S. facility. General Leon LaPorte, commander of the United States Forces Korea, distributed to the South Korean media yesterday a U.S. judicial system "fact sheet" that stressed the fairness of the trials. Meanwhile, the activists are collecting 2 million signatures demanding the two soldiers be tried in South Korean courts. The situation reminds us of two trains running toward each other on one track.
The U.S. military court's verdicts are not understandable to the South Korean public. Nor does the U.S justice system work like the South Korean justice system, as we have said before. However, we must respect the U.S. court-martial procedures and the jury's verdict, as long as the U.S. military has jurisdiction over the cases. The two accused soldiers probably did not neglect their duties willfully. And yet, we still wonder how much caution the U.S. military exercised to prevent a tragedy that came from a convoy of oversized armored vehicles traveling on a narrow road.
On Friday, the Stars and Stripes, a newspaper published by the U.S. Defense Department, carried a letter to the editor written by the driver of a U.S. Army vehicle that was immediately in front of the one that ran over the two girls. The writer said that the soldiers' company commander was responsible for the accident. Armored vehicles must take a detour to Munsan, "because the roads on the Yangju side of the training area are entirely too narrow," the letter said. "The accident happened on the Yangju side, which shows that the wrong roads were being used for travel." The writer also said the the company commander on the morning of the accident ignored advice to take another road.
The U.S. military must clarify where the responsibility lies for the accident, instead of making numerous apologies. That is the only way to help the South Korean public understand the issue and to resolve the situation.