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Posted: 1/9/2003 6:06:41 AM EDT
For those that have ranted about South Korean lately, here is a good editorial that reflects what most people over here really think:

No More Candlelight Vigils

Anti-Americanism Needs to Be Contained

Seoul City Hall plaza and nearby Kwanghwamun street have been a gathering place for those who spearheaded anti-authoritarian movements or celebrated great national achievements.

Last June, when the country was engulfed in World Cup fervor, it made an indelible impression on the world and became a major tourist attraction as hundreds of thousands of people clad in red T-shirts converged there to support the Korean squad, which finished fourth among 32 teams.

Every weekend since last December, the area in the heart of the city has turned into a site of candlelight vigils, mostly by those in their 20s and 30s, to mourn the two teenage schoolgirls run over by a U.S. military vehicle shortly after the start of the World Cup. Their tragic deaths might have been forgotten if young people had not raised the issue through various campaigns, such as the collection of signatures across the country.

The acquittals of the two soldiers who manned the vehicle by a U.S. military court generated nationwide protests, which called for a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) governing the legal status of American troops and a direct apology from U.S. President George W. Bush.

Even though the statutes of SOFA were improved as demanded by the Seoul government and Bush expressed his apologies directly to President Kim as well as to all South Koreans via the American ambassador, the protests did not let up. Instead, they grew into a succession of anti-American slogans and even demands for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The ongoing weekend candlelight rallies, which are being staged without approval, were sparked by an online suggestion by a 31-year-old netizen identified as Kim Ki-bo. He is one of the Internet-savvy young people in their 20s and 30s who are the major driving force behind the election of Roh Moo-hyun.

But participants recently broke into two groups, holding vigils separately because of their irreconcilable differences. The initiator Kim posted a message on his homepage that he proposed candlelight rallies simply to mourn the deaths of the two young girls, but they were hijacked by a coalition of politically-motivated civic groups and turned into an anti-American movement. Kim called upon his colleagues to participate in vigils purely in memory of the two young victims. A recent survey showed that over 80 percent of netizens, mostly in their 20s, supported the continuation of the rallies.

Meanwhile, a substantial portion of the public is fed up with the candlelight vigils dominated by radical anti-American slogans. They are of the opinion that the message has been clearly delivered to the United States, so it would be better to stop them in consideration of the worsening 50-year-old relations between Seoul and Washington.

In apparent response to the growing anti-American sentiment, the New York Times and other influential U.S. papers have printed articles calling for the pullout of the 37,000 troops in Korea at a cost of $3.1 billion per year.

Now is the time to sincerely consider whether or not to continue the weekend candlelight protests and risk our national security and healthy relations with the U.S. at this crucial time, when North Korea’s nuclear ambitions threaten peace on the peninsula.
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