South Korean shop owners charged with illegal sales of US military equipment
By JON RABIROFF AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 22, 2012
SEOUL — Six South Koreans have been booked on suspicion of illegally selling U.S. military equipment, including body armor, helmets and night-vision goggles, police said.
A Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency official said the suspects — who were only identified as middle-aged men — sold the equipment, which they bought from U.S. soldiers, at their shops in Seoul, Dongducheon and Bupyeong.
Police estimated $18,000 worth of equipment was put up for sale, including bayonets and sniper sights. Some of the gear found its way onto Internet sales sites, police said.
The case is still under investigation, the official said, but police plan to forward the case to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office next month.
The investigation began after a South Korean civilian reported buying some of the prohibited military equipment from one of the shops in June. It was conducted with the cooperation of U.S. Forces Korea, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Seoul police official said he did not know how many soldiers were responsible for selling their equipment.
“It’s USFK’s business to check into how many of its troops might be involved in this case,” he said.
“We are aware of the investigation and subsequent arrest of six Korean nationals for allegedly selling sensitive U.S. military equipment and items … and we are working closely with all the agencies involved,” Eighth Army spokesman Col. Andrew Mutter said.
Mutter referred questions about the number of soldiers potentially involved in the case to the DOD’s Criminal Investigation Service, which could not be immediately reached for comment.
Asked how individual soldiers’ equipment is accounted for, Mutter said, “In accordance with Army policy, all Army units — company and below — must conduct periodic sensitive-items inventories. This is done by a 100 percent, hands-on, serial-number inspection by an inventory officer, and the results are submitted for record to the unit’s property book office.
“Any discrepancies are immediately reported to the unit’s chain of command and appropriate actions are taken to address the discrepancies,” he said.