June 13, 2002
Today is the 5th anniversary of the 2002 Armored Vehicle Accident that killed two 13 year old Korean school girls Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun. This tragedy would ultimately end up being a singular event that has impacted the US-ROK Alliance forever. For those that know little about this accident I highly recommend you read USinKorea’s round up and analysis of the reporting on the accident by the Korean media and the follow on xenophobic behavior by the Korean public. I also highly recommend you read this account of what happened that day by then SPC Josh Ray who was driving the vehicle just ahead of the armored vehicle that was involved in the accident. Contrary to all the propaganda put out by the Korean media and NGOs the soldiers involved in that accident had a very human response to an undeniable tragedy that I’m sure none of them will ever forget.
With that said I did decide recently to drive out to the scene of the accident and take a few pictures of the area and the memorial that was established the 2nd Infantry Division in remembrance of Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun:
The memorial is quite nice and sits just on a slope of the hill overlooking the scene of where the accident took place on Highway 56 in rural northern Kyeongi Province. Here is the inscription in the memorial in both English and Korean:
The SOFA related plaque is one of my favorites and if I was as disgusting and as insensitive as the anti-US groups I would put up my own plaque right next to this one asking why when ROK Army soldiers commit accidents or crimes while on and even off duty they are not tried in civilian courts but in ROK Army courts? Compare this to the fact that US soldiers are tried in Korean courts for crimes or accidents committed while off duty and tried in military courts for crimes and accidents that happened while on duty. I would also ask why when the ROK Army deploys soldiers over seas why they have a SOFA Agreement that gives their soldiers full immunity from any civilian courts of that host nation? A perfect example of this is in Iraq when a ROK soldier accidentally shot and killed a Kurdish Peshmerga soldier when fooling around with his weapon. No Kurdish courtroom for him. Then also in Iraq a Korean soldier had a vehicular accident that killed a Kurdish governmental official, once again it was handled by the ROK military according to their SOFA agreement.
Then I would also put on the plaque that despite popular opinion US soldiers have been tried in South Korean courtrooms since the 1960’s. Though US soldiers have been tried in Korean courts for decades after this accident most Koreans thought the SOFA Agreement allowed US soldiers to get away with crimes in Korea and fly back to America which is absolutely not the case. I have argued with Koreans before about the SOFA issue and not one can explain the inconsistencies I have listed above because such facts are completely not reported in the Korean media while rumor and innuendo are.
June 13, 2002
As you can see the road has been significantly widened by cutting out the hillside on each of side of the road and then most importantly installing a sidewalk. The simple installation of a sidewalk along that highway in 2002 would have prevented the accident that happened. This is a fact that is completely overlooked and ignored. It is easier to completely blame the two soldiers involved in the accident instead of the Korean government sharing in some of the responsibility of what happened. I have always felt that the 2nd Infantry Division was partly responsible for what happened and has done everything possible to make amends for this tragic accident. To this day the division sends soldiers to help the families with the harvest of their crops or any other needs the families have. What has the anti-US groups or the Korean government done for these people? Nothing, accept in the case of the NGOs where they have hijacked these two girls memorial.
The Korean government has never accepted responsibility for creating an environment that was literally an accident waiting to happen. Back than many of the roads in northern Kyeongi province where military traffic (both ROK & US) travel on to training areas were extremely narrow, filled with traffic and pedestrians, and had no sidewalks. Heck where the accident happened there was hardly even a shoulder on the road. Since then the government has improved many of the roads in the area, but still to this day many of the roads are still inadequate for military traffic. Even on Highway 56 there are still many areas in need of sidewalks that have not been installed yet.
With all the politics and demagoguery involved over the 2002 accident many people have lost sight of the fact two girls were tragically killed on the side of this road. I sincerely offer the families of Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun my condolences and hope that some day that these two girls can rest in peace.
PLEASE SEE THE ABOVE ARTICLE AND LOOK AT ALL OF THE PHOTOS.