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SEOUL — Servicemember misconduct is on the rise in South Korea, U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell stated in a recent message to his troops.

Bell wrote that he is “seeing a statistical increase in servicemember misconduct, particularly involving under age drinking, alcohol abuse, curfew violation and sexual assault.”

He called the behavior unacceptable and wants the troops to know about potential lifelong negative consequences they could face.

His message comes in advance of a long weekend; the military community is off work from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20 to celebrate President’s Day and the Korean Lunar New Year.

Bell wrote that the safety record for 2007 so far has been “very good,” but added, “We must continue to highlight safe and appropriate behavior in order to avoid misconduct and tragedy during the upcoming four-day weekend.”

Several U.S. troops are embroiled in the South Korean court system after holiday weekend incidents.

Most recently, 23-year-old Pvt. Geronimo Ramirez is accused of raping a 67-year-old South Korean woman on Jan. 14 — part of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

The 2nd Infantry Division soldier was in Seoul for the weekend and is accused of attacking the woman after he spent all night drinking in the Hongdae party district.

Ramirez appears in Seoul Central District Court on Feb. 14 to face aggravated rape charges.

Officials said Bell considered the Ramirez case, among other unspecified factors, when deciding to place Hongdae off limits to the entire USFK community — civilians included — from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily since Jan. 31.

And three other U.S. soldiers are charged in relation to a Nov. 11 brawl in Itaewon’s U.N. Club during Veterans Day weekend.

Pvt. Sylvester Antley Clark, 19, and Spc. Tydes Teron Whiten, 27, were charged with assaulting a club bouncer. Pfc. Mario Duprey, 22, has been charged with assaulting a police officer. Their next court case, also in Seoul Central District Court, is Feb. 23.

To mitigate risks, Bell directed his personnel to read “USFK Command Policy Letter #2, Command Safety,” available at www.usfk.mil.

The policy letter states USFK’s philosophy “must be overarching but simple: supervise, educate, reduce risk, and seek out and eliminate conditions, practices, and habits that threaten the safety of people.”

Part of that philosophy is use of the “Under the Oak Tree Counseling,” in which leaders talk to their troops before “weekends, holidays, passes, leaves, and other identified periods of high risk.”

“First-line supervisors will meet with subordinates to discuss and set conditions for their off-duty plans,” according to the policy letter.

The goal is to get a verbal contract through face-to-face meetings in which the troops agree to take appropriate steps to lower risks, according to the letter.

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