President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
September 10, 2009
We represent a group of citizens in Japan, particularly in Okinawa, and South Korea. It is a great pleasure for us to write a letter to the President of the United States. We understand that you shoulder great responsibility as the leader. Although reading this letter is not likely to alleviate your heavy responsibility, we have faith that you will take this matter seriously because it is about people who are marginalized and mistreated by US Forces in Korea and Japan.
US troops stationed near our dwellings are operating combat training in the name of the security of the Pacific Asia region. Due to aircraft noise from gun-firing and low-altitude flight drills, our lives are devastated with a tremendous loss of personal assets, which has brought us great physical and psychological pain. Moreover, many blind shells abandoned on site, toxic substances and petroleum discharged from US bases are polluting "our" farmlands, "our" rivers, and "our" seas.
The US Forces neither take any proper measures to make amends, nor admit their mistakes. The US Forces say they hold the responsibility of securing peace in the region, but we are losing our lives because of the environmental pollution caused by the US Forces.
We would like to ask a question.
What do "security and peace" mean to the US government?
Do they mean destroying people's lives and polluting the local environment by spilling toxic materials? While the US Forces dispose of toxic petroleum carelessly, we have no choice but to use contaminated water and eat polluted crops. We would like you to ask yourself a question: Isn't "security and peace" a term premised upon responsibility?
This matter is not only about pollution. There have been aircraft accidents in a university in Okinawa and also at a civilian residential site in PyeongTaek, Korea. We have been asking US troops to stop low-altitude flight operations in residential areas, but US helicopters, jet fighters, and cargo planes are flying over our neighborhoods, causing damage to our health, property, and children.
This is not about a few angry families in Korea and Japan. We are talking about millions of people suffering from excessive aircraft noise: people who are going through anxiety neurosis, learning disabilities, sleep disorders, and hearing difficulties. As we have never heard about US compensation for our losses, we would like you to think about this for a moment. Is this truly the "security and peace" that the US pursues? Ignoring local citizens’ safety and their human rights?
Recently US troops are expanding their bases and building new facilities under the cloak of "relocation." If the new base constructions in PyeongTaek, Henoko, Takae, and Iwakuni are completed, they will again take away our land, which provides our livelihood, and destroy our environment. As overseas US military bases are promoting new construction projects, we are about to lose our dwellings and even our seas.
The biggest reason why US Forces in Korea and Japan are not welcome lies in the fact that US troops take improper measures against local civilians. Although military operations pose a great threat to the everyday security of local people, US troops continue to stay for their own militaristic and economic interests. Who should we hold responsible for our years of loss, pain, and damage? What about our children? Are their lives going to be jeopardized under the US slogan "security and peace", just as ours have been?
President Obama, we would like you to think about this problem with us. You must check what US Forces are doing in Korea and Japan and see what is happening to us and to our environment because of US military operations. You must know whether the US Armed Forces under your command are protecting the peaceful condition of the region and securing local people's safety, or destroying the environment and bringing grave concerns to local communities.
We require that proper policies and measures be set in place to solve the above problems, which the US Forces in Korea and Japan have inflicted on us. The US government needs to review and correct laws and regulations such as DoD Instruction 4715.5 (Management of Environmental Compliance at Overseas Installations), OEBGD (Overseas Environmental Baseline Guidance Document), and FGS (Final Governing Standards), EGS (Environmental Governing Standards) to ensure the safety of the local people near US military bases in Korea and Japan.
The US administration must acknowledge the suffering of the people in Korea and Japan, and make proper amends to Korean and Japanese citizens who have been mistreated by the USFK and USFJ.
We know that US presidents visit overseas US military bases and pay attention to American soldiers' concerns. For the sake of human rights and democracy, we hope that you, President Obama, will lend an ear to the distressed citizens of the Korea and Japan.
September, 10th 2009
The executive committee of South Korea - Okinawa-Japan for the 2ndEast Asia International Symposium Environmental Problems Caused by US Military Bases
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