KOR-US SOFA, When can we let off our candle lights, Part I

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <Yonhap News Agency> on September 30, 2011 regarding recent outcries against crimes by US soldiers. This was sparked recently by a sexual violence crime against a teenage school girl committed by a US soldier at Dongducheon. This is the first part of a 2-part series on KOR-US SOFA revision which, many Koreans think, lies at the heart of all crimes by US soldiers. Original article (in Korean) can be located from the link at the bottom. All rights are reserved to the authors of original article or <Yonhap> and this post will be scrapped by their request accordingly.

Despite reduction of US forces in Korea (USFK), crimes by US soldiers rather increase
Public opinion requesting KOR-US SOFA revision ‘sizzles’ due to sexual violence case at Dongducheon

Angry eyes are focused once again on US forces in Korea.

In early morning last September 24, a US army soldier stationed at Dongducheon, Korea broke into a room where a teenager school girl was living and sexually violated her multiple times.

A housewife Eun-min Gil (34) who lives near the place said “My daughters are supposed to attend middle and high schools here and I am concerned since things like this (crime by US soldier) was happened to a young school girl. I hope there would be a system that my own country can protect us.”

This is already second time in this year at Dongducheon where US soldiers break into civilian homes and commit sexual violences.

In last February, an army private L (20) who left his base late at night drank until early in the morning and broke into a civilian home, assaulted old couple, and tried to sexually violate the old woman in 60s. He was arrested without warrant on site.

Voices arguing that US soldiers’ crimes could be prevented by revising ROK-US Status of Force Agreement in Korea (SOFA) that is highly likely to infringe the judicial sovereignty of Korea presently to match the international status of Korea are pitching high.

According to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), crimes committed by US soldiers decreased from 298 cases in 2004 to 207 cases in 2006 but are increasing since then.

The number has been 239 in 2007, 234 in 2008, 258 in 2009, but abruptly increased to 316 in 2010.

Although US military shrinks, crimes by US soldiers are rather increasing.

If we include simple property damage cases whose damages are less than 2 million KRW (about 2,000 USD) and thus excluded from statistics of crimes by US soldiers since October 1999, the total number of cases would be 600 ~ 700 each year.

We have on average 2 crimes a day committed by US soldiers.

Rep. Sun-dong Kim, Democratic Labor Party, who released this data explained “Crimes by US soldiers increased abruptly since USFK raised the night-time curfew last year.”

USFK prohibited their personnel from leaving their base during midnight to 5AM since 2001 when 9/11 terror took place. They relaxed the rule in weekends as time went by and, finally, abolished it on July 2 last year.

Although the proportion of US soldiers among those that are subject to KOR-US SOFA regulations such as US civilian personnel, their families, and invited contractors shrinks every year, the proportion of crimes committed by US soldiers among all SOFA crimes reached from 66.5% in 2006 to 77.4% last year.

According to resources from the MoJ, US soldiers committed crimes mainly such as traffic accidents including hit-and-run (48.4%), violence and assault (18.4%), robbery (11.8%) etc. last year.

US soldiers who committed sexual violence last year were 11 and no one committed murder.

The National Campaign for Eradication of Crimes by U.S.Troops in Korea executive secretary Kyoung-soo Park Jung pointed out “US military authority simply expresses sorry to crimes by US soldiers when Korean public opinion heats up but never provides any countermeasures to prevent any more incidents. Crimes by US soldiers are not accidental; they are rather structural.”

A law professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Jang-hee Lee said “Since US soldiers did not learn anything about Korean laws, cultures, or economic levels when dispatched to Korea, they seem to think Korea as a primitive country. US military authority should supervise their personnel more strictly and should  be accounted for the responsibility.”

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One comment

  1. Dear Editor,

    I was hoping to email you regarding this post but I’ve been unable to locate the contact info. Could you please reply to the email below so that I can discuss reuse of the article.


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