Some students who invaded USA ambassador's house to be arrested

Cheryl Sanders
October 20, 2019

Police said on Saturday that security was heightened at his residence.

They were protesting demands by the Trump administration that South Korea pay more to help cover the costs of keeping US troops in the country.

The students broke into the compound in the centre of the capital by climbing over the wall, pictures they posted on Facebook showed.

In a separate video, apparently broadcast from inside the compound, they accused the United States of demanding a 500% increase in the cost of keeping some 28,500 troops in South Korea, holding a banner saying "Leave this soil, Harris".

Harris was not present in the compound at the time, having attended a diplomatic ceremony at the Blue House at the invitation of President Moon Jae-in.

"19 arrested. Cats are OK", the tweet read.

While the incident may not be representative of public opinion in the country - 78 percent of Koreans believe that US troop presence is important to Korea's security, according to a Defense Ministry poll from last month - the incident testifies to growing friction between the allies stemming from cost-sharing demands by the Donald Trump administration. "Thanks @polinlove!", referring to the Twitter account of South Korea's National Police Agency.

The U.S. State Department has expressed "strong concern" over the illegal entry and urged South Korea to strengthen its efforts to protect all diplomatic missions.

"Any harm or attack on such a diplomatic mission can not be justified under any circumstances, and the government will take all appropriate measures to protect the missions and prevent any acts that disturb their well-being", the ministry said in a statement.

In a country deeply divided along political, ideological and generational lines, the United States is a source of anger for some leftist South Koreans.

In a press conference Sunday morning, the Korean Progressive University Student Union demanded the apprehended students be set free, saying they had justifiably entered the compound, known as Habib House, to protest Washington's alleged demand that Korea pay around 6 trillion won ($5 billion) for the stationing of approximately 28,500 US troops on the peninsula.

Friday's protest came as Washington and Seoul prepare to begin negotiations over sharing the costs for the USA military presence.

South Korea is required to pay over 870 million USA dollars for this year - up 8-point-2 percent on-year.

Seoul's Foreign Ministry said Friday that the countries are scheduled to talk in Hawaii on October 23-24 to negotiate a new deal and that Seoul is seeking a "reasonable and fair share of costs". In February, the country agreed it would contribute about 1 trillion won - $880 million - toward the troops for 2019, an 8.2% increase from 2018.

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