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Citizens to protest deal to keep U.S. military unit in Dongducheon

Citizens of Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province, will hold a mass rally this week to protest a recent South Korea-U.S. deal to retain an American artillery brigade in the city, a local civic group said Sunday.

Last month, Seoul and Washington agreed to retain the 210th Fires Brigade under the 2nd Infantry Division in Dongducheon, north of Seoul near the tense inter-Korean border, until “the mid-2020s” to bolster deterrence against North Korea.

A 2004 bilateral deal had called for relocating the U.S. military unit to a new location south of the Hangang River that runs through the South Korean capital, by the end of 2016.

The latest agreement has pulled the plug on the city’s plan to develop the land to be vacated by U.S. troops, sparking anger among citizens in Dongducheon.

The civic group said the protest rally would be held in front of the 2nd Infantry Division on Wednesday, but it did not disclose how many citizens would participate.

“We cannot help but express anger over the agreement that was unilaterally reached without previous consultation with Dongducheon citizens,” the group said in a statement. “The deal is an act that totally disregards the citizens of Dongducheon.”

The civic group said U.S. forces have been stationed in Dongduchoen for 60 years, which has stigmatized it as “a military town.”

Due to the existence of the U.S. military unit, Dongducheon has been suffering more than 320 billion won ($278 million) in economic losses annually, including 43 billion won in lost local tax revenue, it said, urging the South Korean government to offer the town financial assistance. (Yonhap)