Missionary: More families would curb bad behavior in Area I
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Encouraging more military families to follow soldier spouses and parents to Area I would cut vice around U.S. Army bases here, says a missionary who works with soldiers in Dongducheon.
In recent years the Army has taken steps to curb problems in bar districts outside U.S. bases, including joint patrols of U.S. military and Korean National Police and declaring certain clubs off-limits.
But American missionary Bill Meyers, director of Shalom House in Dongducheon, says he believes that encouraging soldiers’ families to live near the bases would go a long way toward cleaning up neighborhoods.
“The spouses and children who are here all come at their own expense under very difficult circumstances,” Meyers said. “If more families were allowed here there would be less problems. When you have more families around you have less drinking, less prostitution, less pornography and less gambling. It would be a more wholesome community.”
The Army declined to comment on Meyers’ idea.
The numbers, however, show that even if the command were to make it easier for soldiers to have their families with them to Area I bases — those nearest to the Korean demilitarized zone — 57 percent have no families to bring because they are single.
About 5,200 single soldiers and 3,900 married soldiers are in Area 1. Of them, only 101 soldiers — usually commanders, command sergeants-major or division-level staff — are authorized to bring their family members to South Korea to live.
U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten said there are 2,200 command-sponsored positions for all services in South Korea. By 2008, the goal is to increase that to 4,000.
Soldiers on unaccompanied orders who bring their families to South Korea must pay for the transportation themselves. Since Oct. 1, non-command sponsored soldiers who bring families are eligible for an overseas housing allowance but do not receive priority for on-post housing and are not entitled to government furniture.
Children of non-command sponsored soldiers may attend Department of Defense Dependents Schools but on a tuition-paid, space available basis — and no DODDS schools are in Area I.
Meyers’ Shalom House is three blocks south of Camp Casey’s main gate in a neighborhood dominated by nightclubs, where scantily dressed hostesses will sit and talk to soldiers in exchange for a $10 cup of juice.
The mission also includes the Amerasian Christian Academy for non-command sponsored children of U.S. soldiers and contractors, and after-school and night English language classes for South Korean children and adults.
The school started in 1999 and teaches classes in English to children of six different nationalities, including Filipinos, Russians and Americans, said Principal James Kang-McCann, himself an Amerasian — half black American and half South Korean.
“There are not many good things in the area outside Camp Casey,” Meyers said. “This is one of the few places that is good and wholesome.”