Korean police say U.S. soldiers admitted to lewd behavior on train
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Police in Gwangju said U.S. soldiers accused of public lewdness on a local subway admitted to the offense during questioning Thursday, but prosecutors will have to decide whether the three are charged.
Detective Mun Gyeong-gi said “the incident itself is a minor offense.”
Hours before the questioning, senior leaders from the soldiers’ unit met for 20 minutes with Gwangju’s mayor and apologized for the incident, a city official said.
One of the soldiers exposed himself in front of passengers while the other two laughed, made sexually suggestive motions and snapped digital photos as the soldier sat next to a woman passenger, police said.
Police said they questioned the three — a specialist and two privates first class — from about 1 p.m. to about 3:30 p.m. at a Korean National Police station in Gwangju.
“The statements were taken and investigation continues, so it’s unclear what the Korean prosecutor’s going to do,” said Army Lt. Col. Thomas Budzyna, chief spokesman for the 8th U.S. Army in Seoul.
The soldiers are assigned to Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, at Gwangju Air Base, a South Korean air force installation. The unit is part of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
The incident occurred shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday. Passengers made cell-phone calls to police, who met the train and took the soldiers into custody. They later released the three to their unit. Police said they checked the digital camera at that time but that it contained no photos of lewd activity.
On Thursday, 2nd Battalion commander Lt. Col. Marcus C. Black and the battalion’s Command Sgt. Maj. Lewis J. Telly met with the mayor.
“They formally apologized about what was happening in the subway last week,” an unnamed city official said.
According to that official, they gave Park a military coin of the type that bears a unit’s insignia and motto, saying they were eager to expand their existing community relations efforts within Gwangju and to take part in deeper cultural exchanges.
An activist group was set to hold a rally outside the air base Friday afternoon to protest the alleged incident. Its members have said they reject an apology U.S. Forces Korea issued Monday and want the soldiers prosecuted.