Ex-unit policeman criticizes S. Korean guards
October 2, 2007
A former Camp Casey unit policeman says some South Korean security guards at the installation slept and drank on the job, routinely left an entrance barrier open, and on one occasion, let a drunken soldier with a knife leave the installation.
U.S. Army Spc. Sung Jun Kim, a tenant unit soldier provided to the garrison to assist at the gates, said he observed “gross infractions” by South Korean security guards.
“The quality of the work they’re putting out — it really threatens the safety of the soldiers who are stationed there,” said Kim, who served at Camp Casey from August 2006 to August 2007. “They are more of a danger than a safety to the base.”
Kim said he contacted Stars and Stripes because post leadership did not respond to his complaints. He said he had waited more than six weeks and had never been asked for a statement.
“The American taxpayers — they dump all this money into Korea, and I think they would be very upset at all the money they’re dumping out,” he said.
Lt. Col. Donald Meisler, U.S. Army Garrison Camp Casey commander, said Saturday that Kim’s allegations were never reported to him or the former commander.
In a separate e-mail response late last month, Meisler stated his command team spot checks everything on post and has not found guards sleeping on the job.
“In fact, they have performed extremely well during the recent rash of protests protecting our force,” he wrote.
Kim described several incidents he observed or read in a military log book, including a report that a soldier carrying a knife threatened a security guard as he left base in June. The man refused to stop at the guard’s orders. Instead of drawing his weapon, Kim contended, the guard let the man leave Casey.
“Instead of stopping the situation right there on post, he let the person go off post and maybe hurt somebody else. In a way, he endangered the public,” said Kim, who saw a record of the incident in his office log book but did not see it take place.
He said the shift commander called military police but said they did nothing about it.
Officials at Joeun Systems Corp., whose employees have guarded U.S. military installations in South Korea since 2006, confirmed that an incident occurred but disagreed with Kim’s version of the story.
Baek Seung-do, executive director of Joeun, wrote in an e-mail response to a Stripes query that a guard tried to block a soldier from leaving that night, but the soldier broke away and left base. The soldier did not threaten the guard and was not carrying a knife, Baek said. The incident was reported immediately to U.S. officials, Baek said, adding that he doesn’t know what happened to the soldier.
Baek said all of Kim’s allegations are unfounded and said his guards follow strict requirements outlined by the U.S. military on recruiting, training and job performance, and any violations would have been caught.
Lt. Col. William Boucher — the provost marshal and officer in charge of the Department of Emergency Services at Casey — acknowledged Saturday that some soldiers can be reluctant to report allegations beyond their immediate supervisor. However, he said that anyone with concerns should come to the military police desk or even to him, if necessary, with any allegations that compromise the installation’s security.
“If it impacts on safety … you have a right and responsibility to report it,” Boucher said. “Immediately get to where you can get some help.”
Boucher said that everyone, gate guards included, makes mistakes. However, problems that require correction usually should be handled internally and through the reporting procedures in place, he said.
Joeun was awarded a one-year, $120 million contract in May 2006 to guard U.S. Forces Korea bases, with an option to extend the contract for four years.
Installation Management Command-Korea spokesman Ed Johnson cited security reasons for why he declined to provide details about how the guards work at the bases, how they are trained and what weapons they carry.
Some of that information, however, is readily available on military Web sites.
A Yongsan Garrison news story published in May highlighted the guards training with M-9 pistols. According to the story, 430 Korean security guards work at Yongsan Garrison, including some who have worked for the U.S. Army for more than 20 years and some who are new.
Kim said the guards’ shortcomings are well known among U.S. soldiers on base but that camp officials don’t want to cause problems by complaining about them.
“It’s out in the open. It’s just nobody wants to step forward and tell anybody,” he said.
Soldier says guards drank, slept on duty Spc. Sung Jun Kim, a U.S. soldier formerly stationed at Camp Casey, made several complaints to Stars and Stripes about the performance of South Korean security guards Joeun Systems Corp. hires to patrol the post. Among them, with responses from a Joeun executive, are:
Sleeping on duty
Kim said a Joeun guard asked him to radio when the commander of the relief began making gate patrols. It was about 3 a.m., and the guard and others were sleeping and didn’t want the commander to catch them, Kim said. Kim, an American with Korean-born parents, believes the guard asked him because of his ethnicity. “I just walked away in shock,” Kim said.
Baek Seung-do, executive director of Joeun, said the guard was questioned and that he denied Kim’s allegations.
Kim said guards routinely left an entrance barrier open, although it is supposed to be shut unless a cleared vehicle enters the post. He and a sergeant once opened a gate from the outside, then drove their van past four or five Joeun security guards on post. It took the guards 10 to 15 minutes to notice they were inside, he said.
Baek said two U.S. unit police and four Joeun guards were on duty at the gate at the time and that the alleged incident didn’t happen. Had it happened, he said, U.S. soldiers “would have [reported] this issue earlier than anybody else.” Baek said guards “systematically and strictly” follow procedures.
Drinking on duty
Kim said he smelled alcohol on a guard’s breath when he was standing 2 or 3 feet away during a gate check. Kim said he reported the incident to his commanding officer but that the incident was probably not documented.
Military and Joeun officials said they had no reports of guards drinking. Baek said the accusation was vague and difficult to investigate.