A serious breachArrest warrants were filed for seven students who broke into the residence of U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris. On Friday, they climbed over the wall of the residence where the Harris family lives to protest U.S. demands for higher cost-sharing by South Korea for U.S. troops in the South. The family was not at home at the time, and police detained 19 protesters 70 minutes after they entered the compound.
Such slack security on Korea’s part was shameful. Police did not act even when scenes of students climbing the wall were caught by media cameras. The students’ group was pro-North Korea and anti-U.S. It attempted to break into the U.S. Embassy in January and June to protest the U.S. demand for higher defense cost-sharing and a Seoul visit by U.S. President Donald Trump. Police gave the lame excuse that they worried about injuries if they forcibly removed their ladders. They said they had to wait for female officers to arrive to handle the female protesters. It was only four years ago that U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert came under a vicious daylight attack. Police negligence stokes concerns about further dents in the relationship between Seoul and Washington.
Harris tweeted, “Cats are OK. Thanks.” The police plans to beef up security with an extra unit around the ambassador’s residence.
The U.S. State Department issued an immediate statement, urging extra protection for foreign envoys. It pointed out that two break-ins were attempted at the U.S. ambassador’s residence over the last 14 months. It followed up with a press release announcing that Seoul and Washington will hold three days of discussions on the Special Measures Agreement in Hawaii from Tuesday. Seoul had hope to keep the issue low-key.
The students’ group — the Korean Progressive University Student Union — was unabashed about protesting the U.S. demand for raising defense costs and demanded immediate release of the students. The provocative act against our key ally is unacceptable, as was negligence by the police.