Title: U.S. Bombing Range in South Korea: “Hell On Earth!”
Author: Karen Talbot
Corporate media coverage: The Christian Science Monitor, 6/2/00 p.8, New York Times, 6/18/00 p.6, AP, 6/19/00
Faculty Evaluators: Robert Tellander, Peter Phillips, Ph.D.
Student Researchers: Melanie Burton, Michael Runas
Every weekday for the past 50 years, from eight o’clock in the morning to eleven o’clock at night, U.S. fighter planes in Korea have dropped 400 to 700 bombs on the Koon-ni range less than one mile from local villages. The targets for the bombs are islands in the beautiful Aia bay where the people derive their livelihoods by fishing. As the A10 and F-16 U.S. fighter aircrafts swoop over the countryside, they drop depleted uranium (DU) shells. The DU shells add radioactive contamination to the other toxic wastes and oil that have been accumulating near these villages for the last half century.
In July 2000, author Karen Talbot visited Maehyang-ri, a village eight miles from the bombing range, where low altitude planes fly directly overhead. She describes meeting an elderly woman who allowed them to visit her garage to see a hole in the roof and an unexploded bomb inside. Many bombs are found in the villages and there are thousands on the hillsides surrounding the area.
The constant bombardment, with its unbearable noise and pollution, has taken a great toll on the health of the villagers. Throughout the years, at least 12 people have been killed and numerous others have been wounded. The number of cancer cases is disproportionately large and growing, and women are increasingly experiencing miscarriages and birth defects. While U.S. military personnel are given earplugs, members of the South Korean police and military who stand guard inside the fences are not, nor are the villagers. Noise levels have been measured off the decibel scale. Mental health is a serious issue, with constant tension from noise and danger of accidents.
Lockheed-Martin now owns the Koon-ni range. This kind of privatization of the military comes as no surprise because 50 years of dropping bombs and spraying bullets has been very lucrative for arms manufacturers.
For the good part of 50 years most Koreans knew nothing about this, but protests are growing. Hundreds of thousands of students, farmers and workers are joining the protest. The popular demand “U.S. military out of Korea” has gained momentum in the wake of the recent highly successful summit between the leaders of North and South Korea. On December 12, 1998, more than 1,500 villagers occupied the bombing range, but were eventually pushed off by Korean police. In June 2000, a huge demonstration took place in Maehyand-ri with thousands of people from all over Korea, including a large contingent of autoworkers for the Kia Motor company. Five hundred people again stormed the fences and occupied the range.
Powerful protests against the U.S. bombing range in Vieques, Puerto Rico, have been widely covered in the world press, but the similar situation in Korea is not yet as well known.