SEOUL – The U.S. military has clamped a tighter curfew on its 37,000 troops throughout South Korea to reduce their risk of assault or other anti-American acts during this week’s presidential campaign.

The election is Thursday. Beginning Tuesday and ending next Monday, all servicemembers are restricted to base or their off-base homes from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Normal curfew falls at midnight Sunday through Thursday, and at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

The curfew change, announced Tuesday by U.S. Forces Korea, comes on the heels of protests after the acquittal last month of two U.S. soldiers in the roadside crushing deaths of two Korean schoolgirls in June by a U.S. tracked vehicle traveling to maneuvers. Public anger has intensified during the South Korean presidential election campaign.

“The reason for this is ... to minimize unnecessary exposure of ... personnel and their families during the Republic of Korea national elections,” said Army Maj. Holly Pierce, an 8th Army spokeswoman.

The curfew comes less than 48 hours after Army Lt. Col. Steven Boylan was attacked at knifepoint Sunday night outside Yongsan Garrison in Seoul. His assailants, three Korean men in their 20s, cursed at him in English, calling him “GI” and saying “Go home.” Boylan, chief spokesman for 8th Army, suffered only minor injuries.

But the attack on Boylan did not lead to the tighter curfew, Pierce said.

As an added measure for troop safety, Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, 8th Army’s commander, has banned the wearing of BDUs, also known as fatigues, for Army personnel at commercial Incheon Airport, Pierce said.

“When you see BDUs, you immediately think ‘U.S. soldier.’ It’s immediately recognizable,” Pierce said.

“They’re required to wear either the service green Class A uniform or the Class B uniform, which is essentially the greens without the jacket, or appropriate civilian attire,” she said.

The election-week curfew will be enforced through the usual means — military police and courtesy patrols that cruise off-post and watch for violators.

Action against curfew violations varies depending on the reasons for the violation, Pierce said. Punishment can range from revocation of leave or passes to prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, depending upon the facts.

“It really depends on the situation,” Pierce said. “It depends on whether or not alcohol was involved ... sometimes there are very legitimate reasons that you have to blow curfew — your car breaks down. It really depends.”

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