S. Korean police to arrest suspect in stabbing of US troops
By ASHLEY ROWLAND AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 17, 2013
SEOUL – Dongducheon police said they will issue an arrest warrant as early as Sunday for a South Korean man in the stabbing case of three U.S. soldiers involved in a Saturday morning brawl near Camp Casey. They do not plan to press charges against the Americans involved in the incident, police said.
The brawl involved five Camp Casey soldiers and began shortly after 6 a.m., when four of them tried to help a drunken Filipina woman who repeatedly fell down outside a club as she tried to stand up, according to Kim Bokjun, chief of Dongducheon Police Station’s Criminal Investigation Department.
The woman’s husband, a Korean-American staff sergeant, saw the encounter and mistakenly believed the other soldiers were flirting with her. He took a plastic baseball bat from his car, handed it to his wife, and began fighting the four soldiers with a knife, Kim said.
The South Korean manager of a nearby club in The Ville, identified by police as a 33-year-old man surnamed Lee, jumped into the fray, grabbed the knife from the staff sergeant and stabbed the soldiers, Kim said. He said Lee and the staff sergeant were acquaintances.
Lt. Col. Joe Scrocca, the 2nd Infantry Division spokesman, said Sunday that the five soldiers allegedly involved in the fight are being made available for interviews during the joint South Korean police and U.S. law enforcement investigation.
“We are cooperating fully with the [Korean National Police] and any determination of what caused the altercation will be revealed after investigation is complete,” he said.
Three soldiers were stabbed during the fray and a fourth was hit in the head with the baseball bat, though it was unclear by whom. The most seriously injured, a private, was stabbed in the abdomen and flown by helicopter to U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, where he underwent surgery and is now in the intensive care unit, Scrocca said. The 2nd ID and the Dongducheon police have given differing accounts of the severity of his injury, with 2ID on Saturday saying the injury was not life-threatening. However, Kim said on Sunday that the soldier’s “life is in danger.”
The other three injured soldiers are specialists and have been treated by doctors and released from medical care, Scrocca said. One was stabbed in the buttocks and another was stabbed in the hand.
Kim said Dongducheon police interviewed four of the soldiers on Saturday, but have not interviewed the man who was hospitalized because of the severity of his condition. They also questioned Lee, who admitted to stabbing the soldiers, Kim said.
Lee is expected to be charged with committing a violent act, he said.
South Korea’s Yonhap News reported that the U.S. soldiers and the club manager were drunk. Kim said the soldiers had been drinking inside Camp Casey before the altercation.
Both Dongducheon police and 2ID previously said the manager claimed he was “provoked” into joining the fray after the four soldiers suggested that his club employed prostitutes.
While it was not clear what kind of establishment the manager runs, The Ville is home to about two dozen “juicy bars,” where hostesses – usually Philippine women imported to work at the clubs – flirt with soldiers in order to get them to buy the women expensive juice drinks for their continued company.
Thanks to a string of incidents in recent months, even relatively minor alleged acts of misbehavior by U.S. soldiers have received national attention in the South Korean media.
“This incident is not representative of the favorable relationship between U.S. soldiers and Korean citizens in Dongducheon,” Saturday’s 2nd ID release said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Jon Rabiroff contributed to this reprt.