[EDITORIALS]Stop the instigators!A mass public rally will take place in Pyeongtaek on Sunday to protest the planned relocation of the U.S. military base to the area. At the gathering the protesters will shout the slogan, “Let us farm again this year.” However, the government will begin tearing down illegal buildings inside the site before the end of this month to meet the construction schedule. Violent clashes are inevitable.
Of the 2,850 acre relocation site, the government failed to purchase 603 acres. It asked a local court for help with forcibly expropriating the land at the end of last year, ending the land purchase process legally.
The problem is that about 100 households living on the 603 acres are strongly protesting the relocation of the base. They have even posted signs such as “This household protests the planned U.S. military base relocation,” and “We do not accept mail from the Ministry of National Defense,” on their front gates. They say they do not want to surrender the land that generations of their families have lived on for a U.S. war plan.
The government thinks that the residents have been influenced by outside instigators, who are demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the peninsula. “Do you think the farmers know anything about a U.S. war plan? I don’t understand why outsiders keep stirring them up,” said a taxi driver.
The relocation of the Yongsan garrison and U.S. 2nd Infantry Division installations to areas south of Seoul have been approved by the National Assembly. Attempts to overrule such an agreement are a challenge to this nation. One is free to oppose the relocation plan, but protests should be done sensibly within a legal framework. And yet, the activists are not doing so. They have occupied empty houses inside the site that they do not own, after former residents left the area. At a demonstration last year, they damaged the fence of a nearby U.S. military base.
For what purpose do they try to obstruct the progress of an important project, that is directly linked to our national security, by arming innocent farmers with anti-Americanism? We must not allow the outside instigators to continue with their propaganda. It is the government’s responsibility to stop the instigators.
First, the government must exert more effort to persuade the residents protesting the relocation. At the same time, it must sternly punish unlawful actions such as unauthorized occupations and the use of violence. Until now, the government has been handling this matter hesitantly. There have been no cases of law enforcement related to this matter over the last year, and that simply proves the government’s negligence.
If the government continues to remain reluctant, the instigators will gain more influence over the residents and the construction plan will continue to falter. The government must remember that its willingness to actually support this relocation will be questioned if it continues to remain indifferent to the incitement.