WASHINGTON (January 15, 2003) -- The Chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Policy has conveyed to the U.S. Department of Defense concerns that the agreement governing the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea is contributing to a growing anti-American sentiment in that Asian country.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, of Pensacola-Tallahassee, warned that "our relations with such an important ally, especially in these times of heightened danger to world peace and security, need very careful attention."
Bishop Ricard forwarded to Secretary Rumsfeld the concerns of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea that the Korean Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), despite recent revisions, contains elements "which are still unequal, unjust, and infringe on the sovereignty of the Korean people."
The perception among Koreans of unequal treatment in the SOFA is "provoking new and widespread anti-USA sentiment among the Korean people, who in fact feel that their national pride and sovereignty have been undermined and trampled underfoot," said a letter from Archbishop Andrew Choi Chang-mou of Kwangju, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea.
The Status of Forces Agreement governs the presence of U.S. military personnel, civilian support staff, and their dependents in South Korea. Similar agreements exist with Japan and NATO allies, such as Germany, where U.S. forces are stationed. Among the provisions in the agreements are those for handling criminal activity by Americans stationed in those areas.
"The objective of the SOFA revision [urged by the Korean bishops' conference] is to develop a solid foundation and cooperation for the security of the Korean peninsula and Asia Pacific region, and a mature and future-oriented relationship between our two allies," said Archbishop Choi Chang-mou.
Bishop Ricard forwarded Archbishop Choi Chang-mou's letter and other documentation to Secretary Rumsfeld and urged that they be considered as part of a review of the SOFA.