Police say a U.S. service member was extracted from this stolen vehicle after it crashed in Goyang city, South Korea, March 31, 2024.

Police say a U.S. service member was extracted from this stolen vehicle after it crashed in Goyang city, South Korea, March 31, 2024. (Goyang Fire Station)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Firefighters in Seoul cut an American service member from a compact car he allegedly stole and crashed early Sunday, injuring two South Koreans, according to local police.

The unnamed, 23-year-old male service member was visiting Hongdae, a Seoul neighborhood known for its nightlife, when he stole a Kia with the keys in the ignition sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, a Goyang Police Station officer said by phone Monday.

South Korean police typically do not identify individuals suspected of crimes due to the country’s strict privacy laws.

At 6:17 a.m. Sunday, police in Goyang city, about nine miles north of Hongdae, responded to a reported crash and found the service member trapped inside the Kia, the officer said.

He said the Kia apparently rear-ended a truck and another car stopped at a red light. Two South Koreans in the other vehicles were injured but did not require immediate hospitalization.

Firefighters with extraction tools cut through the Kia’s door to remove the service member, according to the officer.

The service member was turned over to U.S. military police after his arrest and a test of his blood alcohol content, the officer said.

South Korean officials customarily speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

The service member refused a breath test for his blood alcohol content, saying he had difficulty breathing, the officer said. A blood sample was taken instead at a local hospital, but results were not available Monday.

A 0.03% blood alcohol content is the legal limit for driving in South Korea; by comparison, all 50 U.S. states set 0.08% as their limit.

USFK typically maintains custody of its personnel unless South Korean authorities allege they committed more serious offenses like rape and homicide.

An Eighth Army spokesman said the command is cooperating with the Korean National Police investigation and has launched its own investigation.

“The safety and well-being of [South Korea’s] citizens and our soldiers remain our top priority,” spokesman Col. Juan Martinez said in a statement emailed Monday. “This investigation is ongoing, and there are no further details for release at this time.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

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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