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S. Koreans begin legal battle to deter expansion of U.S. air base

All Headlines 16:38 April 29, 2010

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- A group of South Koreans filed an administrative suit Thursday against the Korean defense minister, demanding the cancellation of approval for the construction of a second runway at the U.S. air base in Osan, south of Seoul.

In the suit filed with the Seoul Administrative Court, the plaintiffs -- a group of 200 residents of Pyeongtaek who live near Osan Air Base -- accused the Korean government of approving the U.S. air base's runway expansion project without conducting an environmental impact assessment or consulting the local municipal authority or residents.

"It is obvious that the local residents will suffer from even worse noise pollution," the plaintiffs said in the suit.

But the defense ministry said the new runway project won't cause any damage to neighboring residents.

"The second air strip (at Osan) is to replace the present dilapidated one, so it will not increase flight operations or training time, which could have an impact on local residents," a ministry spokesman said, noting the construction will continue as scheduled.

In 2006, a Seoul court ordered the government to pay a group of about 300 residents around Osan Air Base 1 million won (US$8,900) in compensation each for noise damage from the military installation.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are currently stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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