CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — South Korean authorities are prosecuting two U.S. soldiers who allegedly stole or destroyed about $6,000 worth of goods from several Tongduchoen nightclubs.

Prosecutor Ha Chung-hyen of the Uijongbu District Public Prosecutor’s Office said last week that charges were filed on March 9 against a 2nd Infantry Division private and another U.S. soldier. The charges include “special larceny” of money and goods from clubs operated by the Korean Special Tourist Association, which serves only U.S. customers.

The soldiers are charged with breaking a lock of the door of a bar, stealing $100, breaking into another four bars in Tongduchoen and stealing money and goods worth about $6,000 on Christmas Day and Dec. 26, 2004, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The soldiers allegedly threw 30 bottles of alcohol, two boxes of beer and two sound systems on the floor of one nightclub, causing about $3,500 damage, according to the Yonhap news agency.

The prosecutor’s office ordered the soldiers, who have not been arrested, to return a laptop computer taken in one of the incidents and compensate to the victims. However, two months after the order was issued, restitution still has not been made, the report said.

The prosecutor decided to press charges because “the accused U.S. soldiers haven’t made any minimum efforts to make compensation for the damages,” according to Yonhap.

Ha was quoted as saying the case was prosecuted to emphasize that the South Korean prosecutor has the ability to exercise jurisdiction over such offenses by U.S. soldiers.

U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Budzyna said he couldn’t confirm any details of the case until South Korean authorities released the names of the accused.

So far there are no formal charges by the U.S. military, he said. Victims of alleged vandalism and theft may file claims against soldiers under Article 139, Uniform Code of Military Justice. Such claims will be fully investigated, and if found true, the soldier’s pay may be directed to the victim until the amount of the loss is paid, Budzyna said.

“We fully respect the prerogative of the local legal authorities to retain jurisdiction and the U.S. military legal authorities are prepared to cooperate in every way we can.

“As guests in the Republic of Korea, we all need to respect the laws and customs of our host nation and realize that we will be held accountable for our behavior,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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