No decision made on curfew in South Korea
SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell is still deliberating whether to change curfew restrictions for troops stationed in South Korea, USFK spokesman Col. Franklin Childress said Monday.
Bell said in January that he planned to ease curfew restrictions for higher-ranking servicemembers within two months, possibly by starting a tiered curfew system that would let them stay out later than lower-ranking troops.
Childress said Bell spoke recently with senior leaders about the curfew but will announce changes only through his officers “because that’s the right thing to do.”
“He is going to talk through the chain of command, who will talk to the servicemembers,” Childress said.
Bell told Stripes during a Jan. 17 visit to Daegu’s Camp Walker and Camp Henry that he planned to discuss changing the curfew with USFK leaders at a peninsulawide commander’s conference on March 22. He said his senior NCOs approached him several months earlier about starting a tiered curfew system, saying that more relaxed curfews have worked for servicemembers stationed in other parts of the world.
Bell said during his Daegu visit that the current system doesn’t recognize that by the time servicemembers reach a certain rank, they’ve had to show maturity and responsibility.
“If soldiers are expected to be leaders, then why won’t I let them go out at night?” Bell asked.
Several soldiers said Bell talked about changing the curfew during a meeting with representatives from Better Opportunities for Single and Unaccompanied Soldiers. That meeting was closed to the media.
U.S. soldiers in South Korea are required to be indoors between midnight and 5 a.m. on weekdays and between 1 and 5 a.m. on weekends and U.S. holidays.
A stricter version of that curfew went into place for USFK troops a few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when most U.S. bases worldwide set curfews.
Many have since lifted their curfews, but U.S. commanders in South Korea have never fully rescinded a curfew, citing force-protection concerns.