Two soldiers punished for S. Korean subway incident
Passengers await a subway train in South Korea. Six U.S. soldiers were accused in February 2013 of sexually harassing a Korean woman after she complained about their rowdy behavior on a similar subway train, an incident that drew national attention in South Korea.
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — While local authorities continue to investigate a subway incident in which a half-dozen U.S. soldiers were accused of harassing a Korean woman, the American military has started handing out its own punishment.
The commander of the 2nd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion imposed “non-judicial punishment” under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on two of the soldiers for underage drinking prior to the confrontation.
That resulted in a reduction in rank for one soldier, and 45 days of extra duty and 45 days of restriction for both, according to a 2ID spokesman.
The battalion commander is waiting for a final disposition of the case by Korean authorities before deciding what, if any, additional action will be taken against those two soldiers and the others implicated in the incident.
“The 2nd Infantry Division takes soldier misconduct very seriously and will take appropriate action based on the results of the investigation,” 2ID spokesman Lt. Col. Joe Scrocca said.
Railway police said the soldiers were acting up on a Dongducheon-to-Incheon train on the night of Feb. 2 — playing a “boom box” loudly while dancing and shouting — when a Korean woman in her early 20s asked them to quiet down.
That prompted the soldiers to verbally and physically harass the woman, while taking video and photos of her, police said. During the confrontation, one or more of the soldiers may have touched her breasts, they said.
Others on the subway car called police. The soldiers then got off at the Mangwolsa station and pulled the woman onto the train platform, according to reports. There, three of the men were arrested while the other three left before authorities arrived.
The case has been sent from the Seoul Regional Railroad Police to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, which in turn forwarded it to the Uijeongbu District Prosecutor’s Office, where officials say there is no timetable for decisions on possible charges.
The incident received national attention in the South Korean media. A U.S. military official visited with Uijeongbu Mayor Ahn Byung Yong to apologize.
On Friday, Scrocca said the 2ID and officials from Gyeonggi Province are working together to develop a new “cultural awareness curriculum” for incoming 2nd Infantry Division troops on Korean laws and culture and the behavior expected of them, reinforcing “that they are ambassadors of the United States wherever they go, 24-hours a day, in or out of uniform, on or off post.”
Stars and Stripes Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.