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American soldier detained in taxi incident weeks after curfew lifted in South Korea

A taxi makes its way along the streets near Itaewon, in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday, July 25, 2019.

KIM GAMEL/STARS AND STRIPES

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 25, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea — An American soldier was detained after he reportedly scuffled with police and tried to steal a taxi after a night out drinking in Seoul over the weekend.

The incident occurred more than a month after U.S. Forces Korea, the main command for the 28,500 servicemembers stationed in the South, temporarily lifted a 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. off-installation curfew that had been in place for years.

The 21-year-old soldier, who is assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, was angered when a taxi driver refused to let him into the car at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday in the trendy neighborhood of Itaewon, the Korea Broadcasting System reported.

The incident remained under investigation and the soldier was in the custody of his chain of command, the 2nd ID said Thursday, declining to provide more details due to the ongoing investigation.

According to the KBS report, the soldier hit the driver, then tried to drive away in the taxi after the driver got out to talk to police, but the taxi crashed into a fire hydrant.

The soldier scuffled with police and tried to run away, but the officers subdued him with a stun gun, according to the report. He was detained on suspicion of assault and property damage but was released to American military authorities in accordance with the status of forces agreement between the allies.

“We are aware of the incident involving a U.S. soldier and the Korean National Police in Itaewon last weekend and are cooperating fully with all legal authorities,” said 2nd ID spokesman Lt. Col. Martyn Crighton. “We take this matter very seriously. We are committed to ensuring our soldiers obey Korean laws, U.S. military regulations and remain good neighbors with the Korean community.”

A senior police official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, confirmed the details in the KBS report.

The military suspended the much-hated curfew for 90 days beginning on June 17, saying the decision would be reviewed on Sept. 17, in a test for servicemembers.

USFK commander Gen. Robert Abrams will decide in September whether to continue the evaluation period, maintain or rescind the curfew, which required that troops be on base, in their residences or hotel rooms during the specified hours.

Officials said at the time that the curfew’s suspension was aimed at improving morale and making South Korea a more attractive assignment, as well as giving troops a chance to see more of the country.

Abrams retweeted a post about the taxi incident from “U.S. Army W.T.F! Moments.”

“Being a good battlebuddy includes being with your battle buddy and not letting them wander off. We are guests here,” he added in a comment. “We are also Ambassadors who represent our country on and off duty. Below is an example of not being a good Ambassador.”

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Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

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