Pacific edition, Sunday, July 29, 2007

SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea officials will educate all incoming troops on a marriage counseling policy because they found that few people knew about it.

“It just doesn’t really come up till they go to pursue [marriage to a non-American],” said USFK spokesman David Oten.

The International Marriages in Korea regulation, issued on March 2, requires servicemembers to notify their commander that they plan to marry, submit their spouse to a background check and medical exam and get premarital counseling from a military chaplain. The command can block the marriage if the servicemember cannot show financial ability to keep the spouse from becoming a “public charge,” if there are indications the spouse would be barred from the United States for “inability to meet physical, mental or character standards,” if either already is married or if the marriage is planned solely to obtain a visa.

In a message to troops posted Friday on USFK’s Web site, commander Gen. B.B. Bell said many servicemembers don’t know the regulation even exists, but it addresses a “serious policy and regulatory gap across the Command.”

The 12-step regulation is meant to decrease the number of servicemembers who marry and then have to move out of South Korea before their spouse gets a visa, officials said. That process takes months, if not longer, said Lt. Col. Jim Jones, 8th U.S. Army deputy command chaplain.

“If you don’t start six months out, don’t plan to leave together,” he said Friday.

The regulation will be rewritten over the next 60 days, with changes designed to make application of the policy more uniform across the peninsula and across services, said Lt. Col. Alan Bernard, deputy assistant chief of staff of the joint personnel office.

Peter Mann, chief of manpower, personnel policy and programs for the joint personnel office, said the policy benefits servicemembers and their prospective spouses, who may not have discussed finances, cultural differences and other issues until they go through the counseling process.

Mann said he has received e-mails from servicemembers thanking him for the policy since it went into effect.

“It slows [the marriage process] down, but it makes it a more conscious decision than just from pure emotion,” Mann said.

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