Recent Spate of Crimes by USFK

Dear Korean,

I was wondering what The Korean thought about the the tensions filled relationship between the U.S. troops stationed in Seoul and the local community in Itaewon. What do you think is the cause of the strain? I know recently there were two very high profile arrests and a conviction of a US Soldier on a heinous rape charge. I know if the situation was reversed one crime would be too many in my opinion.

Marcie L.

The Korean actually wrote about the relation between USFK and Korean people in a previous post. The Korean finds that the situation, as well as what the Korean thinks about the situation, remain largely the same as the time when that post was written. For those who are too lazy to read the old post, the gist of the Korean's take is -- USFK is slow to understand that the changing nature of Korean nationalism in the younger generation, which increasingly sees America as a competitor instead of an ally. Given the strategic importance of Korea, USFK would do well to understand the sea change around them and adjust accordingly. After all, American soldiers pride themselves to be professionals. They should not commit crimes and not also risk jail time for themselves, but also jeopardize the health of the alliance. As an American, it mortifies the Korean to read stories of American soldiers committing petty and serious crimes abroad.

A few items to update the situation:

- The details of the heinous rape case that Marcie L. mentioned are available here. Rough English translation is available here. Basically, the soldier bound, tortured and raped a teenage Korean woman for four hours. The soldier was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Korean court. Because of this crime, other petty crimes committed by USFK personnel -- like a scuffle with a cab driver over the fare -- are coming into renewed focus in Korean media.

- As is usual in this type of situation, Koreans are calling for another round of amending Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which defines the relations of USFK personnel and Korea. In particular, Koreans are unhappy with the clause that governs the situations in which USFK personnel commits a crime outside of his base. Under the current agreement, USFK must give a "favorable consideration" in producing a soldier accused of certain serious crimes (murder, rape, etc.) to Korean law enforcement. However, another clause specifies that, once the accused soldier is produced, she must be indicted within 24 hours of the production, unless she was arrested at the scene of the crime. As a practical matter, this clause makes a prosecution of a GI criminal difficult because it essentially gives exactly 24 hours to Korean law enforcement to investigate the alleged crime. (For example, it took 12 days to investigate and indict the rapist in the case above.) Korean government and USFK formed a joint committee to discuss the potential changes.

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