Larry Kerschner Writes


Pyongtaek

   In a reshuffle of troops in South Korea the United States Force Korea (USFK) is in the process of relocating troops from Yongsan Garrison near the DMZ to Camp Humphreys near Pyongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul .  This decision was made without discussion with area residents.  Camp Humphreys occupied 3,734 acres when the Korean government pledged another 2,851 acres for the expansion.  The land given to the U.S. belongs to mainly elderly farmers.  When these farmers nonviolently resisted their eviction on March 15, 2005 they were physically assaulted by troops.  The Korean government has cut water lines and surrounded the land with barbed wire.

       There is little mention of these events in American media.  Chinese troops left North Korea in 1958 but the question of whether American troops really need to be in Korea is never asked.  President Bush ludicrously named North Korea as a major threat to the U.S.   Protecting South Korea from this axis of evil is the supposed basis of the continued U.S. presence.

     The reality is that while North Korea may have a million man army on paper they are no threat to South Korea and certainly no threat to the United States (just like the million man army in Iraq was no threat to the United States ).  The Chinese and the Russians stopped providing military supplies to North Korea many years ago.  Due to lack of fuel and ammunition the North Korean soldiers seldom train.  In 1999, Lt. General Patrick Hughes of the Defense Intelligence Agency reported to Congress of a lack of discipline in the North Korean military including reports of soldiers stealing food at gunpoint.

       In contrast, the South Korean Army has 700,000 active duty members with five million well-trained reservists.  South Korea has twice the population of North Korea and thirty times its economic and industrial capacity.  Even without one American soldier in South Korea the North is no threat.  Under an agreement announced August 18, 2006 the Korean Defense Ministry expects to procure advanced fighters on par with U.S.-made F15Ks, Aegis-equipped KDX-III destroyers and 1,800 ton class Type 214 submarines from the United States .

      Under the current operating agreement (OPCON 5027) the United States is required to send 690,000 troops along with 1,600 aircraft and 160 ships to South Korea in the event of a real crisis.  USFK currently has 37,000 troops, 70 F-16 combat aircraft and 70 AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters in South Korea to fight a non-existent threat.  According to the Center for Defense Information the U.S. military injects about $5 billion a year into the Korean economy but surely this is not enough reason to keep troops there.  The bases being built on the land stolen from the farmers of Pyongtaek will be one of the largest military bases in in Asia .  Could the reason for the base and the maintenance of the troops simply be to project and protect the American imperial hegemony in the region?