April 23, 2001
Most Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth St. NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Prot. No. 82/2001
Re: For Fair Revision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)
Praised be Jesus !
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea and all the Korean Catholics are very grateful for your positive consideration to our request concerning the revision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
Regarding the objective of our request and the involved issues, we explained them in the letter and the attached document of Dec. 7, 2000.
The SOFA that was signed between the two allies in 1966 made its first revision in 1991 and brought some improvement. However, the revised SOFA was not satisfactory at all for Korean people's needs. Therefore, since the first revision of the SOFA, the Korean people of all walks of society including civil groups, intellectuals, students, religious circles, especially, inhabitants around the U.S. military bases, who are the direct victims of it in many ways, have constantly brought up the question of a complete and full revision of the SOFA and struggled for it. As a result, the second revision was undertaken in August, 2000 and concluded on Dec. 28, 2000.
Even though the second revision has made some improvement and was welcomed as a major step toward the progress by some politicians, it has provoked great disappointment and furious reactions of Korean people.
We, the Korean Bishops, are concerned about the issues because the unfair SOFA and its consequences have made the Korean people feel humiliated and their national proud and sovereignty (see the attached documents) and also some Koreans poses questions about the purpose of the existence of the U.S. troops in Korea as they seek for peace and reconciliation of the divided country.
Even now, the demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul demanding on the full revision of the SOFA has become daily events. Participants are not only so-called SOFA-related groups but all walks of society including religious circles.
In fact, we can notice in the revised SOFA, how much the U.S. side tried to evade its responsibility and demanded excessive concessions from its Korean counterpart. Just one example of the environmental protection tells us many things. The revised SOFA stipulates that the U.S. Armed Forces are neither under an obligation to restore damaged areas and facilities of pollution to the former condition nor a duty to compensate for it to the Government of the Republic of Korea, but it has to take appropriate measures. Also, the principle that the polluter has to pay due expenses was completely ignored. This means that the ROK has no right of claim against the U.S. Armed Forces to restore damaged areas and facilities.
The objective of the SOFA revision is to develop a solid foundation and cooperation for security as well as a mature and future-oriented relationship between two allies. Thus, we, the Korean Bishops, agreed to make another appeal of solidarity to Your Excellency and the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference to intervene in related authorities, government bodies and organizations so that a fair treaty can be made between the two countries on an equal level on behalf of a better world of justice, peace and sharing based on the mutual respect.
With all my best wishes and prayers, I remain
Sincerely yours in Our Risen Lord,
Michael J. Pak
Bishop of Masan
Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea