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Sunday, 8 December, 2002, 03:59 GMT
Anti-US protests grow in Seoul
Candlelit vigil in Seoul
A candlelit vigil was held in memory of the girls
Hundreds of South Koreans have gathered in the capital, Seoul, to protest against the presence of American troops in the country.

The protesters, many of them students, demanded an apology from President Bush over the deaths of two South Korean teenage girls last June in an accident involving a tank driven by American soldiers.

Korean protester arrested in front of the White House
There were arrests in Washington

A group of protesters, including seven activists who had travelled from South Korea, also gathered in Washington to demonstrate in front of the White House.

The rising tension prompted a United States congressional delegation to call off a trip to Seoul to meet President Kim Dae-Jung and a group of North Korean defectors.

The chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations, Henry Hyde, said he did not want his delegation to become a focal point for large anti-US protests.

Trial demand

A US court martial last month acquitted the two US servicemen in the tank of negligent homicide.

Amid rising anti-American sentiment, several pubs and restaurants in Seoul are now barring US servicemen.

Demonstrators are demanding that the US soldiers involved in the accident stand trial under South Korean law.

Sign at the e-ZENO restaurant in Seoul
Restaurants and pubs are also taking a stand

They rallied in a public park in the city, chanting slogans and demanding a direct apology from Mr Bush.

They also called for changes to an accord giving extra-territorial legal status to 37,000 US troops.

Later the crowd marched to the US embassy for a candlelight vigil in memory of the two girls.

But US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who met South Korea Defence Minister Lee Jun in Washington on Thursday, said he saw no reason for the agreement governing the 37,000 US forces in South Korea to be changed.

Under the accord, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) the US has jurisdiction in criminal cases involving its servicemen in South Korea, although it can hand over jurisdiction to Seoul on a case by case basis.

Growing resentment

Priests, monks and entertainers joined the growing protests on Friday.

The leader of the South Korean Catholic Priests' Association for Justice (CPAJ), Reverend Mun Kyu-hyun, told a rally that the road accident had led many to question the very presence of US forces.

South Korean singer Lee Hyun-woo agreed.

"For a long time, we thought of American soldiers as friends, neighbours and allies," he told reporters.

"But after the accident, I think our views have changed 180 degrees," he said.

The BBC's Donna Larsen
"The largest anti-American demonstration in South Korea for years"
See also:

03 Dec 02 | Asia-Pacific
28 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
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