[NOTEBOOK]Rough justice, rough tacticsAt 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2003, a 19-year-old U.S. female soldier came out of the terminal at Incheon International Airport. She was at a loss because she had missed the last bus to Gunsan Air Base. At that moment, saying that he would drive her to Gunsan, a Korean cab driver approached her and drove her to a hotel.
The Incheon District Court found the cab driver guilty of rape. But the Seoul High Court recently reversed the conviction and set him free. The reason, the court said, was that to constitute rape, the accused should exercise violence strong enough to overwhelm the resistance of the victim, and it had not been proven that sufficient resistance had been offered.
That is to say, it was not a rape because the victim, who was afraid of the unfamiliar circumstances and the late hour, gave up resisting too quickly.
“If that is the case, do you mean the soldier flew umpteen hours just to spend a night with the taxi driver?” a representative from the U.S. forces in Korea protested angrily and understandably. The court’s reversal of the conviction may well be mistaken for being partial to the home team. If we were in their place, we would understand why the Americans have a right to feel regretful about Korea in many ways.
About 10 days ago, some American soldiers created a disturbance in the Sinchon area. In this incident, a Korean was stabbed with a knife by a U.S. soldier and was seriously injured. The Korean police who went to the scene turned the soldier in question over to the U.S. military police. The Status of Forces Agreement stipulates that Korea has jurisdiction over the crimes of U.S. troops who are not on duty.
Nevertheless, the Korean police turned the soldier over to the U.S. military police. The U.S. military police said the Korean police did so either because it was too bothersome to control and investigate the drunken soldier or because they did not have sufficient ability to carry out the investigation themselves. A few days later, this soldier appeared at a Korean police station, which gave the impression that because of a request from the Korean police, the U.S. military police had to turn over the authority to investigate.
Whenever we talk about a revision of the SOFA, we insist that a wider range of jurisdiction over the crimes of U.S. troops be given to Korea. But I doubt if we are actually prepared to exercise the authority properly when it is given.
Thomas Hubbard, the U.S. ambassador to Korea, recently met with international news editors and editorial writers of domestic media outlets. One of the guests said, “Irbil in Iraq, a site for Korea’s troops to be dispatched, is a safe area where the peacekeeping function of foreign forces is unnecessary. Moreover, those who opposed the additional dispatch were elected in great numbers in the last legislative elections. When the 17th National Assembly opens, these lawmakers will raise their voices. Even in the United States, some say that U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Iraq. In this situation, is there any particular reason for more Korean troops to go to Iraq?”
Ambassador Hubbard prevaricated, saying that if Korean troops helped Iraq and the United States in any form, it would be appreciated. If he had not been a diplomat, he might have answered like this: “Because Korea insisted on sending the additional troops to a safe place where there would be no casualties, we reluctantly said yes; and now that it is safe, do you still ask me if it is all right not to send them? Fine, don’t send them. Instead, don’t complain if we withdraw an equal number of U.S. troops from Korea.”
Obviously, the Korea-U.S. alliance has come to a turning point. Several circumstances are different from those of the past. In our history of over 5,000 years, the period in which the United States has supported our national security has been only about 50 years. If the situation goes against us, we may have to be responsible for our security alone.
Even so, that does not mean the end of the world. But the way we seek changes in the Korea-U.S. alliance seems to be pretty rough. We see everywhere the coarseness that only makes the other party uneasy without gaining anything for ourselves. As far as the alliance is concerned, it is more urgent than ever to examine the situation and prepare ourselves before we make assertions and demands.
* The writer is the international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Jae-hak