On June 13, 2002, when South Korea, Japan and the rest of the world were captivated by the 2002 FIFA World Cup, a 50-tonne U.S. army vehicle crushed two South Korean schoolgirls to death during a drill in Yangju, north of Seoul. The girls, Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-seon, both 14, were on their way to a friendβs birthday party.
Thousands of South Koreans protested for several months to demand then-U.S. President George Bush apologize directly for the incident and hand over the U.S. soldiers involved to South Korean court.
The soldiers left South Korea after they were acquitted in a U.S. military court in the country in November 2002, which inflamed anti-American sentiment.
Angry that no one was found criminally responsible for the deaths, many South Koreans wanted the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) altered to allow local authorities to prosecute cases involving U.S. troops in South Korea.
South Korea and the U.S. have a military alliance dating to the 1950-53 Korean War. Nearly 30,000 U.S. troops are based in South Korea, which is still technically at war with North Korea as the 1950-1953 conflict ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.