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U.S. soldier in S. Korea confesses to theft, not rape

This story has been corrected

SEOUL – A Yongsan Garrison soldier denied raping a South Korean high school student when questioned by police Thursday, but admitted to stealing the girl’s laptop following a night of drinking in Seoul last month.

The 21-year-old private maintained that he had consensual sex with the 17-year-old girl in her dormitory-style apartment in Seoul’s Mapo neighborhood early on Sept. 17, according to police.

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Although the soldier was released to U.S. Army custody following questioning, “we are still investigating this case and the investigation will be going on until next week,” said Choi Jong-sang, chief of the Mapo police station’s detective division.

The incident, along with a Sept. 24 rape case involving a U.S. soldier near Camp Casey, has spurred heated protests and calls for new measures to prevent crimes by military members in South Korea.

The Camp Casey soldier remains in South Korean custody. Under the bilateral status of forces agreement, South Korean officials may request custody of U.S. soldiers in criminal cases of “sufficient gravity,” including murder and rape.

Choi said police have no plans to request custody of the Yongsan Garrison soldier.

At 2 a.m. on Sept. 17, the suspect and another soldier met the girl and her friend at a bar in the upscale Apgujeong district of Seoul, Choi said. They continued drinking at a pub near Hong-ik University, in Seoul’s Hongdae district.

The suspect returned with the girl to her room around 4:17 a.m., according to police. He then left her room but returned at 5:45 a.m., which is when police say the rape and theft occurred.

Closed-circuit cameras captured footage of the soldier leaving with the computer, Choi said.

South Korean police and Army officials have yet to disclose the soldier’s name. Police say the soldier is assigned to a communications unit at Yongsan Garrison, the base in central Seoul which serves as headquarters for the roughly 28,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

Correction

The age of the teen was incorrectly reported. She is 17.

Yoo-Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

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