From the KoreaTimes:

Korean Forces in Iraq Ordered to Stay Inside As Violence Spreads

By Ryu Jin
Staff Reporter
The two South Korean military units helping Iraqi rehabilitation efforts have suspended all activities outside their compounds in the aftermath of the recent bomb attack on Italian troops there, the Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

``All Korean troops in Iraq were ordered to stop missions outside the barracks until security is guaranteed after the deadly terror attack in Nasiriyah, which claimed the lives of 18 Italians,¡¯¡¯ said Col. Yuk Heung-soo, head of the overseas dispatch bureau of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As a result, the Seohui unit _ which had been teaching construction techniques to some 90 Iraqi people at a school some 2 kilometers away from the bomb site _ immediately stopped its operations.

The Jema unit had been running a field hospital within a U.S. base there, strengthening inspection and checking procedures for visitors. It too has halted its outdoor activities, Col. Yuk said in a press briefing.

The South Korean troops, comprising 379 military engineers and 85 medics, replaced a 675-member non-combat unit, which left Iraq in October after a six-month deployment.

Seoul plans to heed the US request for more troops to Iraq, but the exact number and role of the additional dispatch have yet to be fixed. Domestic media has speculated that the government is leaning toward sending more than 3,000 troops, including some who are combatant-ready.

South Koreans are deeply divided over the additional troop dispatch. Advocates say it will further cement the Seoul-Washington alliance and produce economic benefits, while critics argue the country should not join in the unjustifiable U.S.-led occupation.

Can somebody tell me why exactly it is that the Korean troops are in Iraq, then?

(Thanks to Marmot for the pointer.)


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