SEOUL — Six months after the weekend curfew in South Korea was shortened, a rise in sexual assaults and other crimes committed by U.S. troops could push U.S. Forces Korea to lengthen it.

In a "Sharp Point" message posted Wednesday on the command’s Web site, USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp said incidents of sexual assaults, aggravated assaults, assaults and disorderly conduct have increased since the curfew was shortened to two hours beginning Aug. 15. Under the current curfew, troops are required to be indoors from 3 to 5 a.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and U.S.-observed holidays. The previous weekend curfew was 1 to 5 a.m. Sharp’s assessment was based on a six-month review of the policy’s impact on troop behavior.

"This is unacceptable and we must act now to correct this trend," he said.

His message also announced a 10 p.m. curfew on April 24, and a four-hour "Stand Down for Standards" training session the following day on behavior issues.

If the rise in violence continues after the training, Sharp will consider changing the curfew, USFK spokesman Dave Palmer said.

"They’re hoping this corrects the situation, and they don’t have to make a permanent change," he said.

USFK did not provide data Wednesday on the number and location of assaults committed by U.S. servicemembers since the curfew was eased. Palmer said officials couldn’t say for certain that the rise in assaults was tied to the shorter curfew, "but it certainly looks related."

The number of crimes, including assaults, theft, verbal fights and fistfights, has spiked in Itaewon since the curfew was changed six months ago, according to an Itaewon police officer who was not authorized to speak to the media. U.S. troops frequently get into fights with English teachers, South Koreans and Africans, he said, but some of the violence is caused by non-military foreigners.

"We are too busy and worn out to control and respond to every trouble, with our limited work force," he said.

He said Itaewon bar owners initially welcomed the shorter curfew because they thought business would improve. It hasn’t, the police officer said, and neighborhood residents now complain frequently about the U.S. troops.

A stricter curfew would be "welcome news to us," he said.

Sharp was unavailable for additional comment Wednesday, but his Sharp Point message announced a peninsula-wide curfew from 10 p.m. on April 24 to 5 a.m. on April 25. All troops will be required to attend the training session from 8 a.m. to noon on the 25th.

Topics covered during the training will include sexual-assault prevention and reporting, gangs in the military, the wingman/battle-buddy concept, and prostitution and human trafficking. Troops arriving in South Korea will receive the training as part of their inprocessing, and first-line supervisors will conduct additional training at least quarterly as part of their "Under the Oak Tree Counseling."

Sharp wrote in his message that the training was meant to correct a trend and not to punish servicemembers. In a news release issued Tuesday, USFK Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Joseph Fil said most servicemembers "exceed all standards" in their behavior.

"But, there are some who are not living according to those standards. It is dependent upon all of us, leaders at every level, to address this problem and fix it," he said in the release.

Sgt. Jose Pupo, who is stationed at U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, said he wasn’t surprised to hear of the rise in military-related incidents. He had heard rumors of troops getting in trouble, with more places in Itaewon being put off-limits and some soldiers being involved in fights.

He said the April 25 training is a good idea.

"It’s probably necessary because a lot of people are getting in trouble. It’s sending a message," he said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.

Training standdown set for April 25Incidents of sexual assaults, aggravated assaults, assaults and disorderly conduct have increased since Gen. Walter Sharp loosened the weekend curfew in South Korea.

A four-hour "Stand Down for Standards" training session will be held on April 25.

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