Fresh Spate of Crimes by U.S. Soldiers

      March 18, 2013 12:45

      This weekend saw several more crimes and disturbances committed by U.S. soldiers stationed here, even as a high-speed car chase and shootout on March 2 had barely left the headlines.

      On Sunday, there were two instances of drunk U.S. soldiers assaulting a police officer, on Saturday, U.S. servicemen were involved in a brawl wielding a weapon, and last Thursday, an American soldier sexually harassed a woman in an elevator.

      Only in January, the U.S. Forces Korea Korea extended a curfew for soldiers from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., but most of the offenses took place during the curfew.

      The USFK admits it is powerless to stop them. "Soldiers caught off base after the curfew will be punished, but there is no way to keep them from leaving base," said an officer at USFK headquarters.

      The social media were abuzz with criticism of the Status of Forces Agreement that still seems to favor U.S. soldiers involved in crimes here.

      Although the SOFA was revised in May last year to allow South Korean police to conduct initial interviews with U.S. soldiers who have been arrested for offenses, regulations still give them an easy ride. "Unless U.S. soldiers accused of crimes are arrested on the spot, it is difficult to gain custody of them even though police file requests for their handover," said Lee Jang-hee at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

      And Lee Woon-hyuk at the Korean National Police University said, "There seems to be a widespread perception among U.S. soldiers that if they escape into American military bases after committing a crime, police can't take them into custody and they’re not going to be punished once they’re back in the U.S."

      Others are baffled by the criminal tendencies of some U.S. soldiers. "There are views that the U.S. military’s screening standards were lowered as it raced to recruit soldiers to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq," said one police officer.

      Meanwhile, Lee Baek-soon of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau summoned the minister counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on Sunday and called for measures to stem the raft of offenses by American soldiers stationed here.

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