Incident at Osan prompts security protocol training
Stars and Stripes March 7, 2008
SEOUL — South Korean employees at Osan Air Base will receive new training on protocol for entering high-security areas, and Osan officials will expedite a plan to replace all control entry line badges, base and union officials confirmed Wednesday.
The announcement follows negotiations between Osan and the U.S. Forces Korea Employee’s Union after two South Korean employees claimed they were treated with unnecessary roughness while being detained Feb. 15 for trying to enter a high-security area on the base.
Base officials have said their security personnel followed standard procedures when they detained the men. They said the men were trying to enter an area that houses a “highly sensitive strategic national intelligence asset” for South Korea without proper authorization or identification.
Base officials said the only injury was a scratch to one of the civilians’ cheek by his eyeglasses because he moved while being taken to the ground, causing the security member to lose his grip.
Both men were seen by a doctor at the Osan medical center and were released with “no documented medical problems other than one minor abrasion,” according to Osan officials.
On Wednesday, Shin Seung-chul, head of the Songtan union chapter, said Lee Geon-ui, 63, was released from the hospital this week and will return to work on Monday. He added that Kim Seong-beom, 56, also should be discharged from the hospital this week.
Shin said all the hospital bills will be covered under their work insurance because the injuries were sustained on duty. He said neither man will be charged sick leave, but instead will be considered on administrative leave during the time they missed work.
During the negotiations, 51st Fighter Wing commander Col. Jon Norman presented Shin with a letter expressing regret over any injuries that may have occurred, according to an e-mail from command spokesman Capt. John Ross.
In the letter, Norman stressed that the command was taking two steps as a direct result of the incident.
“First, we conducted a 100 percent audit of all line badges issued to our vehicle operators and others who may require access to the flight line areas on Osan, ensuring our lists are up to date and everyone who works on the flight line is properly accounted for with valid credentials,” Ross stated in the e-mail. “Second, we are now developing orientation briefings for all Korean nationals who work around our high-security areas.”
Ross said the biggest misunderstanding in the incident is believed to be the men’s “lack of familiarity with our procedures in a high-security environment.”
The $38,000 project to reissue all line badges was planned several months ago and budgeted to occur this spring, according to Ross.
“This particular incident only serves to confirm our decision to give everyone on base a new badge,” Ross said.
Shin stressed the incident has not harmed the relationship between union workers and the base and they’ve agreed to work together to improve their work through better communication.
Ross echoed those sentiments Wednesday afternoon.
“Negotiations have gone very well and I believe both parties are very happy with the agreement we reached,” he said.