Army civilian still could be tried in formaldehyde case
October 25, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A U.S. Army civilian who ordered his employees to dump formaldehyde down a drain at Yongsan Garrison’s morgue in February 2000 still may face an indictment in South Korean court.
“Everything that a court can do has been done already,” said Judge Kim Chae-hwan of Seoul District Court’s Criminal Case Division. “What remains is whether we try him and whether we issue an arrest warrant.”
Kim declined to say more because the case is ongoing.
In late September, the Seoul District Court ordered Yongsan Police Station officers to locate Albert L. MacFarland, the morgue supervisor, to deliver a written indictment.
Yongsan police officials — who came under fire in South Korean media reports for not taking action — refused to comment Thursday on whether they had located MacFarland.
U.S. Forces Korea officials were unable to comment about the case Thursday, but said in May 2001 that a criminal trial was “inappropriate,” and asserted it had jurisdiction over MacFarland under the status of forces agreement.
A judge rejected the Seoul prosecutor’s recommendation for a $3,800 fine against MacFarland in a March 2001 hearing. The judge wanted MacFarland to appear in court — a decision that surprised many South Koreans, said Park Yang-kook, manager of the South Korea Environmental Litigation Center. He said he expected the case to be dodged.
“MacFarland may be sentenced in absentia, but I hope he can be properly punished as what he did was a crime against many unspecified people,” he said.
MacFarland ordered two morgue employees to drain 192 bottles containing 16 ounces each of formaldehyde down the drain, which eventually flowed into the Han River. One of the employees complained to a supervisor, who took no action.
The incident riled protesters who accused U.S. Forces Korea of hurting the environment. South Korean and U.S. officials said it caused no immediate or lasting danger.