An SUV parks near the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pocheon city with a sign that says "vehicle damaged by the bullet," Oct. 26, 2023.

An SUV parks near the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex in Pocheon city with a sign that says "vehicle damaged by the bullet," Oct. 26, 2023. (Pocheon City Council)

SEOUL, South Korea — The command responsible for U.S. ground operations in South Korea has taken responsibility for a stray bullet that struck a moving car last week, according to Pocheon city officials.

Eighth Army, headquartered at Camp Humphreys south of the capital, “sincerely [feels] responsible for this accident,” Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson said during a meeting with Pocheon officials Wednesday, according to a news release from the city the next day.

Burleson said the command plans to “permanently close” the firing lane where the accident occurred and relocate training to a safer area, according to the release.

The Oct. 24 incident occurred less than a mile from the 3,390-acre Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, where U.S. and South Korean troops train 16 miles from the Demilitarized Zone.

The windshield of an SUV driven by a South Korean man was struck at 6:30 a.m. by a 5.56 mm bullet, according to Pocheon police. The driver was not injured.

The incident is still under investigation; however, a preliminary analysis “identified an issue with one of the firing lanes,” Eighth Army public affairs director Lt. Col. Juan Martinez wrote in a statement emailed Friday.

“We are deeply committed to conducting safe training at all U.S. Army facilities in [South Korea] and to continue combined, tough and realistic training,” the statement said. “Eighth Army’s investigation will determine if additional changes to techniques, policies, or procedures are required in the future.”

The leader of a community group called the Youngpyeong Firing Range Tas Force, Kang, Tae-il, said the group asked Eighth Army for a detailed report on how the accident occurred, as well as “measures to prevent the recurrence of such accidents.”

“We think the fact that the U.S. military side admitted their fault and made an official apology to us right away after the accident is a positive change,” Kang said during the meeting, according to the release.

Pocheon Mayor Baek Young-hyeon said the city’s citizens “have been enduring pain for more than 70 years” due to accidental discharges and noise pollution coming from the range, the release said.

Errant rounds fired by the U.S. military have triggered past apologies.

During a Dec. 14, 2017, town hall meeting, then-Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal apologized to Pocheon residents for three range-safety incidents that year, including a .50-caliber round that hit a local’s home the previous month.

Two years prior to that incident, an anti-tank missile fired by U.S. Marines landed in an abandoned building roughly 650 feet from the range. An investigation found that a faulty guide wire left the missile unable to communicate with the fire control system.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Yoo Kyong Chang is a reporter/translator covering the U.S. military from Camp Humphreys, South Korea. She graduated from Korea University and also studied at the University of Akron in Ohio.

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