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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 10:09 GMT
Korea to rethink US forces accord
An effigy of US President George Bush is set fire by anti-US protesters in a rally in Seoul on Saturday
The public is furious over the deaths of two schoolgirls
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has called for revisions to an agreement with the US military which allows it jurisdiction in criminal cases involving its forces in South Korea.

There have been violent protests in the country since the acquittal two weeks ago of two US soldiers whose vehicle crushed two schoolgirls to death in June.

President Kim on Tuesday condemned "indiscriminate anti-Americanism", but said the accord which governs the legal status of US troops needed to be revised.

There was public anger over the US military's refusal to allow the US soldiers to be tried in a South Korean court.

The issue will be raised on Thursday when South Korea's Defence Minister, Lee Jun, meets the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, in Washington.

Protests

Protesters have staged sometimes violent demonstrations since the acquittal of the US soldiers in a US military court.

In Seoul on Tuesday, 20 Catholic priests, sitting in a park near the US embassy, continued a hunger strike protest for a second day.

Meanwhile, 31 bipartisan MPs submitted a draft resolution to South Korea's National Assembly, demanding the revision of the accord, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa).

The Sofa was most recently revised in December 2000 and changes put into place in April last year.

South Korean protesters march towards the US embassy in Seoul on Tuesday
Protesters want changes to the US forces agreement

But President Kim noted that the protests over the US soldiers highlighted the need for further thought on the agreement.

"With this incident as a lesson, the two sides must work more closely to improve Sofa further and develop the Korea-US alliance in a future-orientated direction," Mr Kim was quoted as telling his cabinet in a transcript released by his office.

The acquittal of Sergeant Fernando Nino and Sergeant Mark Walker on charges of negligent homicide has transformed simmering resentment against South Korea's US military presence into fierce protests.

Protesters have been calling for the withdrawal of the 37,000 US troops stationed in South Korea.

Bush apology

Last week US President George Bush sent a message of regret over the deaths of the girls, but critics said it was not enough to stem public anger.

Some restaurants and pubs in the South Korean capital are refusing to serve Americans.

Analysts say that while the soldiers' acquittal acted as a catalyst for protests, anti-American sentiment in general is on the rise.

They trace this to the hardline stance towards North Korea adopted by President Bush which many in the South feel is heightening tension on the Korean peninsula.

See also:

28 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
27 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
07 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
30 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
05 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
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