Support our mission

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — At least four Americans and 10 South Koreans are under investigation in a wide-ranging probe of theft, bribery, collusion and fraud charges involving Army contracts spanning four years and cost “several million dollars,” officials said Wednesday.

None of the Americans involved have been charged, a military spokesman said. According to South Korean prosecutors, the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the the Criminal Investigation Command — referred to as CID — is investigating at least 15 other Americans in the probe. Unclear was whether the Americans are soldiers or civilians.

Two South Koreans, including a Directorate of Public Works purchasing agent, have been arrested, prosecutors said. The other eight South Koreans were charged but not arrested.

The probe centers on Yongsan’s Department of Public Works, which the 8th Army’s Internal Review and Compliance Office began investigating in 2000, officials said.

At some point, the investigation was turned over to CID and, in June 2003, the Foreign Affairs Division of the Seoul Prosecutors’ Office became involved, military officials said.

According to prosecutors, Yongsan purchasing division employees took bribes from local suppliers in return for forging bidding documents or helping the suppliers skip the bidding process.

“Tax dollars have been stolen. The Korean and American public have been defrauded,” said Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, 8th Army spokesman.

South Koreans charged in the probe will go through the South Korean legal system, Boylan said. Americans charged will be prosecuted under federal statutes or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he said.

Asked about the length of the investigation, Boylan referenced the “mountains of paperwork involved.”

“It’s not like one person did it all,” he said. “This is a very painstaking, detail-oriented investigation.”

Whether the Americans being investigated still are in South Korea remained unclear Wednesday, officials said.

“We are continuing our investigation, and when the U.S. authorities are prepared and ready, they will go forward with charge against the appropriate individuals,” Boylan said.

Allegations detailed by the Seoul Prosecutors Office include:

• Chu Kwan-kuk, 44, of the DPW purchasing division, accepted 76 million won ($64,400) in bribes between March 2001 and January 2003 from Song Hyong-soo, 57, of Haesong Co. and Yun Song-yun, 39, of Samwon Corp. for choosing them as winning bidders.

• So Hyo-sok, 53, of Taekyong Co., tried to bribe an 8th Army Command Auditing Team member with $20,000 in December 2002. Between January 2000 and December 2002, So also allegedly bribed DPW purchasing agent Chang Un-young with 51 million won ($43,200) to rig the bidding process. Chang died during the investigation, officials said.

• No Chae-yong, 41, of J Corp. allegedly bribed four Americans in charge of purchasing with 24.8 million won ($20,000) between October 2001 and February 2003. No also turned in eight forged bidding documents to win a furniture supply bid between March and December 2002, prosecutors say.

“This type of activity has taken legitimate business away from those Korean businesses desiring to perform services with U.S. forces on the peninsula,” read an 8th Army statement released Wednesday.

The probe comes at a time when waves of corruption arrests are making headlines throughout South Korea.

Almost daily, politicians, businessmen and even sports figures have been paraded before cameras, charged with schemes involving hundreds of millions of dollars.

Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog agency, lists South Korea, along with Russia, Taiwan and China, as the countries in which bribes are most likely to be part of normal business.

“The Seoul Prosecutors Office is planning to keep working with U.S. CID whenever it’s necessary, and this case is likely to promote South Korea’s international credibility by showing its firm will,” read a statement from the prosecutors office.

U.S. and South Korean investigators have teamed before on corruption probes. In January 2003, Col. Richard J. Moran, former head of Contracting Command Korea at Yongsan Garrison, pleaded guilty to accepting $900,000 from South Korean companies in exchange for base contracts.

Three other Americans — including the former civilian chief of the CCK Contract Support Division — and the president of a South Korean construction company also were convicted in that case.


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