[EDITORIALS]Revise the SOFA

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[EDITORIALS]Revise the SOFA

President Kim Dae-jung told his cabinet to come up with a measure to improve the Status of Forces Agreement between South Korea and the United States. The government, which has been passive, is now stirring and will officially request revisions from the U.S. government. That is a notable development. U.S. President George W. Bush had promised "the United States' commitment to work closely with the Republic of Korea to help prevent such accidents from occurring in the future." General Leon LaPorte, the commander of the U.S. troops here, also said he would improve the application of the agreement. The South Korean public anger undeniably contributed to such developments.

The next concern is how to revise the SOFA. The most significant problem with the agreement is that the accord sometimes does not protect victims or punish wrongdoers. In order to end the disputes over the fairness of the agreement, such "harmful clauses" must be eliminated. Even if an accident occurred in the line of duty, South Korea should have jurisdiction over the case when it is a serious one. The United States says there is no precedent; the two countries, however, should at least investigate such cases together.

The U.S. military can also ask South Korea to give up jurisdiction over crimes committed by off-duty U.S. servicemen. The U.S. military is required to cooperate in investigations in principle, but there are no details spelled out. Without U.S. military cooperation, the investigation cannot be done properly, and accused persons are almost never handed over to our government. Questioning of a suspect can only be done when a U.S. representative is present. Such clauses reflect the U.S. distrust of the South Korean justice system; they exist only in the SOFA between South Korea and the United States. The agreement should also require vehicles belonging to the U.S. military and its staff to be insured.

Trust between the two countries is important. The government must improve our justice system and human rights conditions so that the United States would not have an excuse to seek exemptions. The U.S. government should actively and openly participate in discussions on SOFA revision to further South Korea-U.S. relations.

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