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Pacific edition, Thursday, May 17, 2007

SEOUL — The South Korean military will jail a man who they say deserted his infantry unit after deserting the U.S. Army.

A Ministry of National Defense spokesman said the South Korean soldier, identified only as Private Kim, was sentenced Monday during a closed South Korean court-martial. The 25th Infantry Division commander must determine the length of the sentence, an action expected within about two weeks.

Kim has the right to appeal the sentence, the spokesman said during a phone interview Tuesday.

“So we can say the trial is still” ongoing, the spokesman said.

Officials have said Kim joined the U.S. Army in 2003 in a bid to become an American citizen. When he learned his unit was to deploy to Iraq, officials say he deserted in 2005, returned to South Korea and joined the South Korean army in November 2006.

He admitted the desertion to the U.S. military in early March, MND officials said, and was told to continue his work with the 25th ID until legal officials could work their way through the complicated case.

But he deserted his remote post on March 30, launching a manhunt in the mountainous, wooded terrain around the post. He was discovered five days later in a public sauna in Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood. A military spokesman said officials had received a tip about Kim’s location.

U.S. Forces Korea officials have said they will coordinate with the South Korean army after the investigation is complete.

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