SEOUL, Jul. 3 (Korea Bizwire) — A number of municipal governments in South Korea are facing criticism from civic groups for planning to hold farewell and welcome events for the U.S. armed forces stationed locally, amid plans to reshuffle the locations of American military bases in the country.
A Cheonan-based community organization issued a statement at a meeting held on Sunday urging Cheonan city government officials to withdraw a plan to hold an event scheduled in October celebrating the relocation of a U.S. army base to the region.
Cheonan was set to host a three-day event named ‘Dokkaebi Festival’, an adaptation of Halloween, in the coming months to welcome some 40,000 U.S. military personnel, including family members, to Pyeongtaek.
However, the community organization slammed the local government’s decision, saying, “Despite the fact that people in the local community might have to live with worries of possible crime, noises, and environmental pollution when there is a U.S. army base, the local government is not considering these issues and wasting taxes for a festival that falsely paints a rosy picture of the current situation.”
The criticism comes on the heels of a comparable incident last month, when a concert of a similar nature organized by the Uijeongbu city government failed to go to plan despite a budget of tens of millions of won, with most artists not showing up at the event citing political reasons.
“Though the Korea-U.S. alliance is important, the deployment of U.S. armed forces in South Korea is in our mutual interest.
“For local governments who suffer from budget deficits to hold such an event smacks of toadyism,” an Uijeongbu-based community organization member said.
While the group accuses the Cheonan government of wasting taxpayers’ money over a move that reminds many sycophantic flattery, government officials say it’s a strategic move that could benefit local residents.
“These types of events to show gratitude to the U.S. armed forces can give us the upper hand at the negotiating table when we face issues such as the use and development of land, for instance,” a representative from the Uijeongbu city government said.
“Though it could be a reaction to the problems caused by American soldiers in the past, if the relocation of a U.S. army base to our community is true, we must work closely together and focus on finding mutual interest for both parties. It’s regretful that there is a lack of understanding on this matter,” the official added.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)