[EDITORIALS]Options for a bombing rangeThe U.S. Air Force bombing range in Maehyang-ri, where fighter jets and bombers conducted exercises for more than 50 years, will be shut down completely.
The range has long drawn protests from nearby residents. South Korea and the United States have agreed that Korea will take over the range by 2005 and that the United States will be provided with an alternate range.
The conflict between the Maehyang-ri residents and the U.S. forces was one of the reasons behind the anti-American protests in Korea, along with Nogeun-ri massacre by U.S. forces during the Korean War and the road accident in 2002 in which two schoolgirls died when they were struck by a U.S. armored vehicle. It is positive move for the two countries to agree to remove a root cause hindering the long-term development of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
The accord offers us an important lesson. We become aware again that various military drills and measures to strengthen defense abilities must not infringe the people’s rights to pursue happiness ― the fundamental aim of a nation’s security. We must remember that Koreans’ awareness of their rights has grown expanded broadly in recent years.
The U.S. bombing exercises were legitimate because they took place inside a bombing range, legitimately provided by the South Korean government. And yet, residents nearby strongly protested, and Korea and the United States failed to cope with the situation at an early stage. It is important to remember that such poor handling of the situation provoked anti-American demonstrations.
As long as security threats such as North Korea’s nuclear aspirations and conflicts among the neighboring powers exist, drills will continue on the peninsula in order to defend the peace.
The South Korean-U.S. alliance must function as the foundation of our national security. Although it will not be Maehyang-ri, the two countries must have their drills at some other place on the peninsula.
Before deciding the alternate site, a thorough evaluation must be conducted to minimize possible effects on residents. The allies should try their best to earn understanding and acceptance.