SEOUL — A U.S. soldier died after getting in a street fight outside a nightclub in a popular Seoul entertainment district that has twice been placed off-limits to American troops.
Spc. Carl A. Lissone, 20, was knocked unconscious after getting into an argument with another U.S. servicemember during the early-morning hours of May 4 outside Hongdae’s Club Naked, where he had had been drinking and dancing, according to the Pyeongtaek Police Office.
Lissone was bleeding from his nose and ears, but instead of taking him to a hospital, the three men accompanying him took him to a hotel in Pyeongtaek, near U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, police officials said.
The men reported Lissone’s death to U.S. military officials at 1 p.m.
The chief of Pyeongtaek police’s criminal affairs department said Lissone was alive when he was taken to the hotel but died from a brain hemorrhage. No one has been charged or taken into custody. The men may have been violating U.S. Forces Korea's nighttime off-post curfew, instituted in 2011 after two rapes of South Korean teenagers by U.S. soldiers.
The fight began when one of the servicemembers claimed he had been pushed by another person in the group against a stage inside the venue, he said. The other two men then joined in the brawl.
The 8th Army first announced Lissone’s death after being contacted by the Korea Herald on Wednesday. On Thursday, it issued a statement saying that the native of Covington, Ga., became unresponsive in Pyeongtaek’s Anjung-ri district – the area just outside Humphreys and was taken to Good Morning Hospital in Pyeongtaek, where he was later pronounced dead.
The statement said the circumstances of Lissone’s death are under joint investigation by South Korean police and U.S. officials.
"In the wake of this loss, the entire Eighth Army team is committed to providing accurate and timely information to the family, caring and supporting the Soldiers and colleagues affected by this tragedy, and fully assisting and participating in the ongoing investigation," Brig. Gen. Brian J. McKiernan, the 8th Army’s deputy commanding general for operations said in a statement.
Lissone was an information technology specialist with the 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade, which relocated from Camp Stanley to Humphreys in 2012.
Hongdae was placed off-limits at night to U.S. troops in 2007 after a U.S. servicemember raped a 67-year-old woman there. Pvt. Geronimo Ramirez of the 2nd Infantry Division was sentenced to four years in prison for the attack.
That off-limits designation has since been lifted, and the area, with its thriving nightlife fueled by students from nearby universities, is a popular nighttime destination for U.S. servicemembers.
Hongdae earlier was placed off-limits to U.S. troops in December 2002-May 2006 because of unspecified “force-protection concerns.” The area was opened back up to the military after South Korean and U.S. personnel conducted a combined threat assessment and deemed it safe.
While the U.S. military conducts nighttime patrols of entertainment districts outside U.S. installations – like Itaewon outside U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan and Songtan outside Osan Air Base – several popular areas of Seoul are not monitored.
Last year, Yoo Wonsoon, president of the Itaewon Bar Owners’ Association, said U.S. Forces Korea’s nighttime curfew was driving troops out of Itaewon to districts of Seoul not patrolled by military authorities, including Gangnam and Hongdae.
“If they are going to Hongdae or Gangnam, they can’t be safe because there are no MPs patrolling (there),” he said.