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Sohn Jie-Ae: South Koreans protest U.S.

CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae
CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Uncertainty over North Korea's nuclear aims and dissatisfaction with the U.S. military presence are raising tensions in South Korea's capital.

Sohn Jie-Ae, CNN's Seoul bureau chief, spoke to CNN's Catherine Callaway about a large anti-American protest Tuesday.

SOHN: We're standing in front of a major anti-American rally here in the streets of central Seoul. A few thousand people are crowding the streets here. This number is expected to swell to as many as maybe 100,000 or more as we near midnight here in South Korea and the protesters are joined by other South Koreans who are coming out to the streets to celebrate the coming of the new year.

This rally is to protest a recent acquittal by a U.S. military court of two U.S. soldiers of negligent homicide [charges in the deaths] of two South Korean schoolgirls. But this rally here and the people that we talked to have strong anti-American tones. They are angry at the U.S. and U.S. servicemen for what they say is an unfair and unjust ruling by the military court. They want [President] Bush to apologize in person, and they want a revision of the status of forces agreement that rules the 37,000 U.S. soldiers here.

The protest is also taking on sort of anti-war tones. [Demonstrators] are against what they see as Washington's too-hard push toward North Korea. They are against the war on Iraq. And so ... many of these people are looking upon the United States as standing in the way of a more peaceful reunification possibly between South and North Korea.

[These protesters], of course, [are of] the younger generation, and lest you think that all the South Korean streets are filled with anti-Americans, there is expected to be another group of protesters -- we expect it to be a little smaller than this -- of anti-anti-American protesters. They are expected to say that they are worried about talk about U.S. troops withdrawing from South Korea, and they think that the U.S. here is playing a positive role.

So we have both sides represented here in the streets of Seoul.

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