PYONGTAEK, South Korea — The head of a group representing club owners outside Camp Humphreys said Tuesday he’s hoping to persuade base officials to quickly rescind an order that placed a dozen local businesses off-limits last week and touched off an outcry from the merchants.

Camp Humphreys commander Col. Michael J. Taliento Jr. last week put 11 of the businesses off-limits, alleging they were selling alcohol to underage servicemembers. He put a 12th business off-limits for an alleged instance of prostitution or human trafficking.

Kim Ki-ho, president of the Anjung-ri Merchants Association, said merchants were so angered they hung a banner Friday in the heart of the bar district to protest the move.

“Commander Michael J. Taliento Jr., You go back to Afghanistan again,” the banner read. Taliento served in Afghanistan before taking command of the Area III Support Activity at Camp Humphreys in June 2004.

But the merchants have since put aside their anger and on Sunday afternoon took down the banner, said Kim.

Area III officials delivered written notice of the action on Aug. 11 to the Pyongtaek City mayor’s office and on Friday delivered written notice to the 12 businesses themselves, Clarence F. Slawson, deputy to Taliento, said Tuesday.

Kim met with Taliento on Tuesday morning and pledged the association’s vigilance in helping curb instances of underage drinking.

Last week’s off-limits declaration stemmed from an ongoing Army Criminal Investigation Division undercover operation in cooperation with the Korean National Police, Slawson said.

“That’s basically how all this came about,” he said. “One of the members … is under the age of 21 and he was able to actually purchase alcohol in all of the locations identified.”

U.S. Forces Korea policy forbids drinking by servicemembers younger than 21, even though the drinking age in South Korea is 20.

In one of the businesses, the Ace Club, an agent allegedly was able to arrange to “buy” a female bar worker’s time, Slawson said.

USFK policy prohibits servicemembers from taking part in the practice because it has been a common means of making prostitutes available to customers. By paying the bar management money for a bargirl’s time, the female is permitted to leave the premises and stay with the customer for a stated time period, typically for purposes of sexual liaison.

Business owners who want their establishments removed from off-limits status must “appear in person or present something in writing … ” to the Area III Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board “on what measures or actions they will take to mitigate these problems for the future,” Slawson said.

Kim said he is preparing such paperwork and hopes to have matters settled “within this week.”

“I have been here almost 38 years,” and last week’s off-limits notice was the “first time that kind of big problem” has happened, Kim said. Previous Camp Humphreys commanders “just put off-limits two or three places” at a time, he added, saying he did not understand the more sweeping off-limits action.

Kim said he told Taliento “ … we don’t understand about his action. … The next time … we want to just first discuss about that … and then we can fix what’s going on.”

Don’t go there

Camp Humphreys officials in Pyongtaek, South Korea, issued the following list of local businesses off-limits to servicemembers.

Off-limits for alleged prostitution or human trafficking offense:

Ace ClubOff-limits for alleged sale of alcoholic beverages to underage servicemembers:

Duffy ClubMaxim ClubTop Hat ClubBay Watch ClubEnterprise ClubOlympia ClubWall ClubBlue Hawaii ClubShooters ClubZeus ClubFamily Mart Stores— Franklin Fisher

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