[EDITORIALS]Not guilty: not a surprise

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[EDITORIALS]Not guilty: not a surprise

The "not guilty" verdict delivered by the seven jurors of the 8th U.S. Army military court in the case of Sergeant Fernando Nino, commander of the armored vehicle that killed two Dongducheon middle-school girls, is difficult to understand. The court-martial of Sergeant Nino's driver, Sergeant Mark Walker, is to open today, but it is hard to expect a guilty verdict against him either. There is a saying that blood is thicker than water, yet if nobody takes responsibility for the loss of two lives, matters have gone too far.

In a way, the court's verdict was anticipated. In accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement, Seoul has no jurisdiction over the case. From the beginning, it was hard to expect that the seven jurors, all in active U.S. military service, would convict a soldier who was involved in an accident while on duty.

The situation surrounding the accident suffered from the cultural gap between the two peoples. It was aggravated by the indifferent response of the 8th Army, which aroused strong anti-American sentiment among the Korean people. Now that an acquittal is delivered by the military court, we are worried about heightened anti-American protest from Koreans. We are concerned that people and activist groups, which demanded sincere apologies from the U.S. military authority, plus compensation and a waiver of jurisdiction in favor of a Korean court, will react violently.

It was the first time the U.S. military court has been opened to the Korean public and to coverage by the Korean press. It was also meaningful that the two soldiers responded to the Korean prosecutors' questioning. Korea unsuccessfully requested that the U.S. hand over jurisdiction in accident cases involving American military personnel on duty.

The root of the problem lies in the inequity of the Status of Forces Agreement. Under the agreement, which is one-sided and contains unequal clauses, it is impossible to stop a U.S. military court from delivering acquittals. The United States should remember that keeping the alliance with Korea and respecting the Korean people's sense of pride is beneficial to American interests.

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