Four South Korean civilians died Sunday after they were involved in a crash with a U.S. armored vehicle.
“USFK is aware of the fatal accident near the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex involving a Korean civilian vehicle and a 2nd Infantry, ROK-US Combined Division armored personnel carrier,” United States Forces Korea said in a statement. “USFK, Eighth Army, and 2nd Infantry ROK-US Combined Division are fully cooperating with the KNP investigation.”
“USFK offers its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the deceased following this tragic accident. They are in our thoughts and prayers. Out of respect to those killed and their families, the Eighth Army is temporarily suspending training in the area.”
USFK confirmed that the four civilians were killed in the crash.
According to Yonhap News, a sport utility vehicle with two couples in their 50s rear-ended the U.S. armored vehicle at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Sunday in Pocheon. The four Koreans were taken to a hospital where they were pronounced dead.
One American soldier sustained a minor injury and was taken to a hospital, according to Yonhap News.
The SUV’s engine was damaged beyond recognition due to the impact of the crash, while the armored vehicle’s caterpillar tracks on the right side were damaged.
The U.S. soldiers in the armored vehicles were on their way to their base in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, after a drill, the police said. The road where the accident occurred was frequently used by U.S. armored vehicles.
The police have requested an autopsy of the driver. They are investigating whether the driver’s taking over the wheel from another person minutes before the crash had anything to do with the accident.
Last year North Korea lashed out at the United States over its latest military exercises with South Korea. It accused Washington of “inciting military tension” by deploying powerful military hardware on the peninsula. The comments came as improved ties between the Trump administration and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to be fraying over the joint U.S.-South Korean exercises and the testing by North Korea of a multiple rocket launcher system.
North Korea focused on the exercises and did not mention the weapons tests, including the firing of two presumed short-range ballistic missiles into the sea.
“Although the United States and South Korean authorities are playing every trick to justify this military exercise, they can neither conceal nor whitewash its aggressive nature in any manner,” a North Korean spokesman had said.
In August 2019, North Korea said that Kim Jong Un supervised a live-fire demonstration of newly-developed short-range ballistic missiles. He said that the missiles were intended to send an “adequate warning” to the United States and South Korea over their joint military exercises.