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SEOUL — Local police are seeking a South Korean man who works for the U.S. military in connection with the discovery of about 12 tons of U.S. military shell casings and live ammunition in a commercial warehouse Monday.

Detective Im Il-soon of the South Yangju police station identified the suspect as a 47-year-old man named Kim who works for the 17th Ordnance Company, which operates from the Kwangsa-ri ammunition depot, south of Dongducheon.

Im said three other South Korean men, none of whom work for the U.S. military, are being held in connection with the case.

U.S. officials offered little comment on the case Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s still a joint investigation,” said Maj. Karl S. Ivey, 2nd Infantry Division spokesman. “U.S. military investigators are collaborating with the Korean National Police to resolve the issue.”

Ivey couldn’t confirm whether South Korean police confiscated any live rounds or whether any base employees are suspected to be involved.

The police detective said the three men in custody helped broker a deal between Kim and a man identified only as Shin, who paid about $30,000 for the casings and ammunition as scrap metal. Im said Shin was not arrested because police believe he didn’t know the merchandise was stolen when he purchased it.

The detective said some of Shin’s employees who had military experience became suspicious of the ammunition boxes and contacted the police.

Im said that as former soldiers, the employees said they knew that “if even one bullet was missing in their units, it would be a really huge problem for them.”

The detective said Shin stated he wasn’t aware there were lives rounds in the boxes, “so if he had melted down the stuff without sorting the bullets out, it would have exploded and been disastrous.”

The South Korean police, who confiscated the boxes Tuesday afternoon, said they’ll return the evidence to the U.S. military in two or three days.

Im said 5.56 mm, 7.62 mm and .50-caliber rounds and shell casings were found in the cases.

U.S. 8th Army officials said spent casings normally are disposed of through the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office.


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