Support our mission

SEOUL — One man is in custody and three more face charges in connection with a black-marketing operation that was being run out of an Army and Air Force Exchange Service store at Camp Long, near Wonju, South Korea, authorities said Wednesday.

The case was a result of a yearlong investigation and involved more than 21,000 cases of beer from AAFES, according to Kim Jong-mu, a Seoul-based South Korean customs officer who is the case’s senior investigator.

The duty-free beer was driven off base in a U.S. government vehicle and sold to middlemen, who in turn resold it on the South Korean market, he said.

The four suspects in the case were AAFES employees, he said.

AAFES-Pacific spokesman Master Sgt. Donovan K. Potter said, “all employees involved in this case have been terminated or are on enforced leave, pending disciplinary action.”

One suspect, Cheon Bong-Jung, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of violating South Korean customs law, Kim Jong-mu said. He added that another suspect, Kim Jong-hyuk, who was the store manager, is hospitalized and is expected to be arrested later this week upon his release.

The other two suspects, whose names were unavailable, have not been arrested and are thought to have played lesser roles of loading the beer onto the government vehicle, Kim Jong-mu said.

None of the four have been charged formally, he said, adding that South Korean police are planning to forward charges to the prosecutor’s office.

Customs officers also are seeking a middleman who left one of their fellow officers injured on Nov. 10, Kim said. The officer, Yang Cheon-ho, was dragged by the suspect’s car for about 100 yards as the suspect drove off to escape an attempt to arrest him, Kim said.

The officer remains hospitalized in Seoul with broken bones and head injuries.

U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten said the investigation is ongoing and details could not be confirmed as of late Wednesday.

According to Kim, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command agents asked South Korean customs officials to help them in the joint investigation.

He said Army investigators last year became suspicious of illegal activity at the Camp Long store after determining the amount of beer being ordered for the store was excessive compared to other peninsula AAFES outlets.

The 21,300 cases of beer believed to have been smuggled over the past year was valued at 700 million won, or about $750,000. Kim said investigators believe the suspects have been involved in black marketing for many years.

The Camp Long smuggling was done by loading cases into a vehicle with USFK plates and driving the beer to a middleman waiting off base in an identical vehicle with South Korean license plates, Kim said. Then the plates were switched and the beer was delivered to liquor merchants in Seoul’s Namdaemun Market, he said.

AAFES in the past year has used a new computer software tracking system to help determine when excessive amounts of goods are being sold at its South Korea stores, an indication of possible black marketing.

Kim said the system is working effectively at stores on larger bases.

“Now we are hoping that their new software system tracking … would be applied to the smaller camps for a quick implementation,” he said. “That’s very helpful to prevent the black marketing still occurring at the smaller U.S. military bases.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up