Humphreys commander lifts remaining ban on off-limits club
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — The Camp Humphreys commander has lifted a ban on the Ace Club, which he had put off-limits to U.S. servicemembers on Aug. 11, officials said Wednesday.
The club was one of 12 establishments Col. Michael J. Taliento Jr. put off-limits Aug. 11. The club was the last club to be removed from the off-limits ban. Camp Humphreys is in the Anjung-ri section of Pyeongtaek City.
Camp Humphreys officials have said Taliento placed the Ace Club off-limits after an Army Criminal Investigation Command agent allegedly paid for a female bar worker’s time, an act associated with prostitution and human trafficking.
The club owner denied the allegation.
Also put off-limits were 10 clubs and a convenience store, officials said. Taliento later lifted the ban on the first 11 businesses after owners specified in writing steps they would take to curb underage drinking at their businesses.
Taliento lifted the Ace Club ban after its owner promised to quit doing business with the “entertainment” agency that supplied the female bar worker in question, said Clarence F. Slawson, deputy to Taliento. He identified the business as the “Vandy agency.”
Kim Ki-ho, Anjung-ri Merchants Association president, said the association’s member merchants no longer would hire workers supplied by the Vandy agency or otherwise do business with it.
Stars and Stripes was unable to contact the agency Wednesday.
Ace Club owner Kang Bo-mi said Vandy provided her club with six female employees from the Philippines.
The woman involved in the alleged prostitution incident was a 22-year-old hired through Vandy, Kang said.
“She came here as a singer and then she talked to soldiers and basically entertained them.”
Kang said she had no direct knowledge of any prostitution or human trafficking offenses at the club and doubted the alleged incident occurred. She said she takes strong measures within the club to preclude such occurrences.
However, she said, she agreed to fire the employees and sever business ties with Vandy to keep her business operating.
“I just need to save my club, that’s all,” Kang said.
Taliento’s ban opened a tense chapter between Camp Humphreys and the local merchants, who, after learning of it, hung a banner in the businesses district reading, “Col. Michael A. Taliento Jr., You go back to Afghanistan again.”
When Taliento lifted the ban on the first seven of the 12 businesses on Aug. 19, merchants brought out a new set of banners telling Taliento “We love you,” Kim said.
The banners were a kind of peace offering to Taliento, Kim said.
With all 12 businesses now out of off-limits status, Slawson was asked whether the rough chapter between Camp Humphreys and the merchants was closed.
“We sincerely hope so,” he said.