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Anti-U.S. sentiment grows in South Korea

From Sohn Jie-Ae
CNN Seoul Bureau Chief

Thousands of protesters crowded the streets of Seoul
Thousands of protesters crowded the streets of Seoul

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New Year celebrations in South Korea brought anti-U.S. protests, focusing on U.S. troops there. CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae reports. (December 31)
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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea's candlelight protesters brought in the New Year chanting anti-American slogans and singing nationalistic songs.

Some clashed with the tens of thousands of police as they tried to march towards the U.S. Embassy.

"Move Away! Move Away!" demanded the demonstrators who were angry with the U.S. military court's acquittal of two U.S. soldiers accused of negligence in the deaths of two South Korean schoolgirls struck by a military vehicle.

While there were some families who came with children, the bulk of the protesters were young Koreans calling for a revision of the Status of Forces agreement that governs the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.

"To make sure this kind of case never happens again, we need to create a more equal footing between South Korea and the United States," said Choi Woo-Hyun, a college student who believes American troops should pull out of his country.

"I think American troops are standing in the way of reconciliation between South and North Korea," Choi said.

Kim Yong-Dae, a junior high school teacher has a more moderate view.

"I wish we could unify South and North Korea, and that would do away with the need for U.S. troops. But we must be realistic," Kim said.

This seems to be in line with the views of President-elect Roh Moo-Hyun, who many believe rode in on such anti-American sentiments.

The new president told reporters South Korea needed to be consulted above-all in formulating any North Korea policy on the part of the United States.

"Success or failure of U.S. policy towards North Korea isn't a life-or-death situation for the American people, but it is that for the Korean people," Roh said.

For his part, the president-elect did call for a halt to the protests, as he tried to deal with the North Korea nuclear issue. But it was a call that was evidently ignored.

While anti-American protests may die down after the New Year's Eve rally, many believe the anti-American sentiments have grown so strong and prevalent that they will have to be a factor to be reckoned with as the new president formulates his North Korean policy.



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