Oct. 18 (UPI) — More than a dozen South Korean university students were arrested on Friday after climbing into the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Seoul.
A total of 17 students of a progressive inter-university coalition protesting U.S. military cost sharing were arrested at 2:57 p.m. after trespassing into the U.S. compound. They used a ladder to climb the wall of the residence, South Korean news service Newsis reported.
Two students who did not enter compound but were part of the group were also arrested, according to the report.
After climbing into the area by ladder, the protesters expressed opposition to U.S. demands that South Korea pay nearly $ 5 billion for basing 28,500 U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula.
The students reportedly chanted, “Harris, leave this land,” a reference to U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris, the top American envoy to Seoul.
Harris has publicly defended the U.S.-South Korea alliance as the linchpin of regional security. In a recent interview with a local paper, he also said Seoul pays only one-fifth of the cost of the U.S. military presence.
Harris had said Seoul should increase its contributions to $ 4.8 billion, a fivefold increase.
Kim Han-sung, president of the student coalition, told Newsis the students are condemning Harris’ statement and that the demand places burden on South Korean taxpayers.
The next round of negotiations between the two countries is scheduled to take place Wednesday and Thursday in Hawaii, Yonhap reported Friday.
A South Korean foreign ministry official said the two sides are working closely for a “fair level of defense cost sharing,” according to the report.
In February, South Korea agreed to raise its contribution by 8.2 percent and pay $ 915 million annually.