SEOUL — Five Seoul American High School students were arrested last week for allegedly smoking marijuana in a popular clubbing area, according to South Korean police.

A spokesman for the Mapo district police alleged the teens smoked marijuana in an alley near a Hongdae club half a dozen times between July and December 2009.

Police declined to say why the arrests were made only recently, saying only that the matter remains under investigation.

All five, who have been released, are the children of U.S. Forces Korea personnel or Department of Defense civilians, the spokesman said.

Six other teens — some South Korean and some Chinese — were arrested on the same charges. One of the American students is believed to have been supplying marijuana to the others, the spokesman said.

“We suspect there are more American students involved, but most of the suspects kept their mouths zipped,” the spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The case will be forwarded to South Korean prosecutors in coming weeks.

Charly Hoff, spokesman for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific, said he had no information on the students involved in the incident. A U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

South Korea’s drug laws are harsh. In 2008, a U.S. soldier was sentenced to five years in a South Korean prison for helping traffic 30 pounds of marijuana into the country and assaulting two investigators during a sting operation in Itaewon.

And in 2007, wives of two U.S. soldiers were sentenced to 2½ years in a South Korean prison for smuggling and using methamphetamine.

A spokesman for the Drug Squad of the Korean National Police said this is the first time South Korean and foreign teenagers have been arrested for allegedly using drugs together. Because of the unusual nature of the case, he said it’s difficult to predict what will happen to the teenagers, although they likely will be fined and could face jail time.

“Because they are minors with no criminal record, they will not be punished strongly,” he said. “But it also depends on what roles they played in the ring — were they suppliers, were they sellers, or were they simply smoking?”

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