YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — South Korean police arrested three men Saturday for customs violations, seizing thousands of cases of cold medicine, lotion and ham among the goods intended for store shelves on U.S. bases.

Two of the men — identified by police only as Choe and Cha — worked for Camp Casey’s Army and Air Force Exchange Service store, said Sgt. Kim Yong-jip of the Nowon Police Station. A third man, identified only as Hong, also was arrested, Kim said.

Master Sgt. Howard Smith, AAFES spokesman, said Choe Chong-mo and Cha Kon-hoe work for the Camp Casey exchange, but did not confirm if they were two of the individuals arrested. Smith referred further questions to Korean customs.

Police received a tip the men were involved in smuggling, Kim said. After the pair’s arrests, police seized 4,093 boxes of medical supplies and 26,068 boxes of items such as personal care goods and over-the -counter medicines. He said the men are believed to have smuggled, in May alone, 2,772 cases of medical supplies and 15,166 boxes of shampoo, aspirin and vitamins.

The value of the goods from the two incidents is estimated at about $118,200, Kim said.

He said the men are accused of loading the goods into a 2½-ton U.S. truck and driving out of Camp Casey, then selling the items at markets in Seoul, Uijongbu and Tongduchon. Hong is thought to have helped move the items to the black market, Kim said.

A fourth man — identified as Kim — is being questioned as to whether he helped Hong, police said.

South Korean customs officials often investigate black marketing cases, as the resale of goods violates tariff laws. U.S. Forces Korea is allowed to bring goods in the country duty-free but restricts access to people who have authorized ration privileges. The command is bound by the status of forces agreement to take measures to stop black marketing.

In September, the former manager of the Hannam Village post exchange and another South Korean businessman were arrested after customs investigators discovered a tunnel leading from a warehouse on base to an off-base coffee shop. The coffee shop had a hole in the floor; investigators said it was used to receive smuggled booze sent from the warehouse on a rolling track system.

Korean customs officials estimated 62,000 cases of liquor were moved to the black market over two years. Last week, AAFES said a recent inventory showed a $76,000 merchandise loss days after the arrest but customs officials held $40,000 of the goods.

In September 2002, an AAFES employee of Camp Stanton was under investigation in connection with the sale of 1,500 cases of beer, whiskey and medicine at a local market. Korean police said the AAFES employee and five other Koreans reaped about $60,000 in profit yearly.

Eighteen Koreans, including three AAFES employees, were arrested in June 2001 on customs violations. Investigators alleged AAFES employees at camps Howze, Edwards and Giant, using a vehicle with U.S. license plates, smuggled 1,000 cases of beer per week for resale on the black market.

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