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Monday, July 19, 2004
Seoul students protest U.S. Army lecturer

By Jeremy Kirk, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Saturday, November 30, 2002

Greg L. Davis / Stars & Stripes
Kyunghee University students review papers defining the leadership goals of Col. Peter M. Champagne, Commander of the 8th US Army Military Police Brigade, during a presentation given by Champagne to students about leadership.

Greg L. Davis / Stars & Stripes
Col. Peter M. Champagne, Commander of the 8th US Army Military Police Brigade, speaks to students about leadership at Kyunghee University Wednesday.

Greg L. Davis / Stars & Stripes
Student protesters surround and attack the car of Col. Peter M. Champagne, Commander of the 8th US Army Military Police Brigade, as he tries to leave Kyunghee University after leading a discussion on leadership.

Greg L. Davis / Stars & Stripes
Student protesters surround and attack the car of Col. Peter M. Champagne, Commander of the 8th US Army Military Police Brigade. Col. Champagne was an invited guest of the Universities Business Studies department.

SEOUL � In their black, U.S. Army-plated car outside Kyunghee University, Col. Peter M. Champagne and his wife, Marlene, felt the thumps of democracy earlier this month.

Champagne was invited by his wife � a teacher at the school � to speak on leadership and how he commands 1,800 8th Military Police Brigade soldiers at Yongsan Garrison.

�We are here serving to protect a democracy,� said the colonel, a 25-year Army veteran who holds a master�s degree from Harvard University. �I think the law of respect is very important.�

In his forest green Army uniform, decorated with Ranger tab, awards and commendations, Champagne spoke frankly to the 30 students in his wife�s class about the warning he received.

�The Korean police thought it was dangerous for me to come to the university,� said Champagne, top law-enforcement official for U.S. Forces Korea. �People like myself who wear a uniform should not be afraid to walk around Korea.�

But Champagne had visited the university the same day a U.S. soldier was acquitted of charges that he negligently contributed to the girls� deaths � a decision that has sparked sporadic and occasionally violent anti-American protests.

Learning a uniformed U.S. Army officer was in the university, some students organized a quick protest, standing in wait outside the classroom.

More than 200 students held placards protesting the June 13 incident leading to the trial, in which a U.S. Army armored vehicle killed two South Korean schoolgirls. The protestors also held signs denouncing the U.S. government�s Iraq policy.

When class was over, they followed Champagne and his wife to their car, chanting and yelling as the couple moved quickly through the hallways, surrounded protectively by students from Marlene Champagne�s class.

In a fierce, intense scene, students kicked the vehicle while South Korean police tried to clear a path. The Champagnes escaped injury but the car was dented.

The campus has been a hub for anti-American protesters wanting the U.S. military out of Korea. Kyunghee students allegedly abducted a U.S. soldier Sept. 14 after a scuffle in a Seoul subway.

But the impromptu demonstration was a South Korean first for Marlene Champagne, she indicated. In her three months of teaching, she said, she�s never experienced any anti-American sentiment.

The former Army major said she doesn�t hide her military past from her classes. �My students � they are so hungry, so passionate, so eager to learn,� she said. �I genuinely honestly believe they really do love me.�

The Kyunghee scuffle followed more than two hours of lecture by Champagne and classroom participation in which students listened intently, asked questions and took notes.

His wife, some students said, is well-regarded.

�She is very passionate and enthusiastic, and she cares about her students a lot,� said Lee Kang-hye, 23.

Most South Korean teachers have a much different relationship with students, said Kim Hyung-suk. �The teacher lectures, and that�s it. She encourages the students to participate a lot.�

Marlene Champagne makes students raise their hands, and they must talk in class and share ideas, said Park Jin-woo, 25, who is studying business administration. �She really has a good connection with students face-to-face.�

Later Wednesday, Champagne and his wife said they had no regrets about going to the university. He said he proudly wears his uniform and dismissed the idea of putting on civilian attire for the university trip.

�I applaud these protesters,� Champagne said. �That may seem kind of ironic since I�m the guy in charge with protecting servicemen and their families, but it�s a democratic right. That�s why people like me serve in the military.�

But the ensuing scuffle was inappropriate, he said, adding that when protesters commit acts of violence, they �cross over the line � that�s what I get concerned about.

Champagne called the U.S.-South Korea alliance, a partnership that�s lasted more than 50 years, as relevant today as it was during the Korean War. But both sides should work to understand each other�s cultures, he added.

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