Korean War veterans, opposing plans for South Korea to retake wartime command of its military, demonstrated yesterday in front of the Honolulu consulate.
Rally protests S. Korean military plan
Dozens of Korean War veterans marched in front of the South Korean consulate yesterday to protest plans for Seoul to retake wartime command of the country's military from the United States.
About 65 aging veterans who fought for South Korea during the war and later immigrated to the United States hoisted signs and shouted slogans while walking along the Pali Highway sidewalk, protest organizer Janis Koh said.
About 10 supporters joined the veterans, she said.
The veterans believe it's premature for South Korea to assume command of its military in the event of war and that doing so would leave the South vulnerable to invasion from the North, Koh said.
"We are outraged and dismayed," the Rev. Tae-Yong Cho, 74, a retired minister and veteran, said in Korean as translated by Koh.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has argued the South's military is strong enough to take over the command anytime.
South Korea initially proposed that it retake the command in 2012, but the Pentagon is now proposing 2009, which would allow the U.S. military to focus more on Mideast hot spots.
The top U.S. general in South Korea, Gen. B.B. Bell, said in a speech last week that South Korea's development makes it appropriate for South Korea to take wartime command of its troops. Bell added the United States would remain a committed and faithful ally so long as it is welcome and wanted in South Korea.
The National Movement for Protecting Freedom scheduled yesterday's protest to coincide with a visit by Roh to Washington later this week for a meeting with President Bush.
Demonstrations also were planned in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York, Koh said.
A similar protest in Seoul last month drew 5,000 people.
Yesterday's demonstrators plan to send letters outlining their views to Roh, Bush, South Korean Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Koh said.
"They want to remind the young generation and also the Bush administration and the Roh administration that they are still alive and still strong," Koh said. "As long as they are alive, they don't want the Roh administration's attempt to ignore the past and the danger of North Korea's threat."