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Army commander in South Korea bans alcohol sales after 9 pm

SEOUL — Troops will no longer be able to buy alcohol after 9 p.m. at two Yongsan shoppettes under a new policy that will go into effect on Thursday.

The policy promotes the health and welfare of the military community and is meant to standardize the hours for alcohol sales for Army and Air Force Exchange Service facilities in Area II, which covers the greater Seoul area, according to a statement issued Monday by U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan commander Col. William Huber.

“Stopping the sale of alcohol after 9 p.m. helps implement an alcohol risk reduction and prevention strategy that responds to potential problems before they jeopardize readiness, productivity, and careers,” he said.

The policy will affect the AAFES shoppettes at the Dragon Hill Lodge and the Main Post Mini-Mall. Other Area II shoppettes, at Hannam Village and K-16, close before 9 p.m., and the Yongsan AAFES Post Exchange, which sells some alcohol products, closes at 8 p.m.

The restriction on alcohol sales comes following a sharp rise in drinking-related incidents on installations across the peninsula during the first fiscal quarter of 2012. Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011, USFK recorded 127 such incidents, a 53 percent rise from the previous quarter.

Yongsan spokesman Mark Abueg said the alcohol sales cutoff was not due to the recent rise in alcohol-related incidents, or to a curfew put in place last fall following the high-profile rape of a South Korean teenager by a U.S. soldier.

The curfew appeased some South Koreans who called for a more aggressive response from USFK to servicemember crime, but had the unintended consequence of creating a new set of enforcement headaches for the command – particularly after curfew hours were lengthened in January. Last month, USFK commander Gen. James Thurman issued a memo calling out military leaders for a lack of self-discipline after more than 50 officers and noncommissioned officers were caught violating the curfew during the first three months it was in place.

During that period, 168 troops were apprehended for violating the curfew.

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“I cannot and will not tolerate the actions of Officers and NCOs who lack self-discipline and choose to intentionally disregard an existing lawful military order that it is their duty to uphold,” Thurman said in the memo.

“This displays not only a lack of judgment, but a disregard for the values of our profession and sets an extremely poor example to the very Service-members who we are charged to lead. More to the point, it represents a highly disappointing lack of self-discipline and military leadership,” the memo said.

Thurman enacted the curfew on Oct. 7, largely in response to the brutal rape of a South Korean teenager by Pvt. Kevin Lee Flippin in Dongducheon several weeks earlier.

After the rape, Thurman set a temporary curfew for midnight to 5 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends. In January, he extended the curfew indefinitely and adjusted the hours to 1 to 5 a.m., seven days a week.

rowlanda@pstripes.osd.mil

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