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US military retiree banned from bases in South Korea due to black-market allegations

Shoppers entering the commissary no longer need to show identification on Camp Humphreys, South Korea, on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019.

MATTHEW KEELER/STARS AND STRIPES

By KIM GAMEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 3, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea — A U.S. military retiree has been banned from bases in South Korea over allegations of buying excessive duty-free goods and black marketing, officials said Friday.

The move came nearly four months after U.S. Forces Korea, the main command on the peninsula, lifted monthly commissary purchase limits and eased other shopping restrictions intended to prevent such infractions.

The retiree, who lives in South Korea but was not otherwise identified, was banned Dec. 10 "from all U.S. military installations and facilities in (South Korea) for 10 years, for excessive purchasing of duty free goods and black marketing,” according to a post on the Camp Humphreys Facebook page.

It reminded USFK personnel, including military, civilians, retirees, widows and dependents, that violations of the regulation governing access to duty-free goods may result in a suspension or revocation of the privilege.

“The individual making excessive purchases from the Commissary/Exchange need not profit from the act for it to be a violation,” it added.

“Duty-free purchase privileges may be revoked or suspended if you or your dependent is involved in black marketing, the wrongful transfer of duty-free goods, or purchases in excess of personal needs,” the garrison said.

Humphreys garrison spokesman Steven Hoover confirmed the retiree was a man but said he couldn’t immediately provide more details.

Patrons in South Korea had long been required to present ID or ration cards before being allowed to enter base commissaries and exchanges.

The change implemented in mid-September removed the entrance checks, although customers are still required to show IDs to cashiers before purchasing anything.

The new policy also lifted limits on the amount of goods service members and their families could buy each month - previously $800 for the main sponsor and $300 for additional family members.

However, restrictions on alcohol sales remained as USFK sought to prevent black market trade of goods sold on base.

The previous policy began in August 2013 after the U.S. military faced rampant problems with goods purchased from base facilities being resold on the local market.

In one of the most notorious cases, a store manager and a South Korean businessman were convicted in 2003 of smuggling some 62,000 cases of wine and beer through a tunnel dug under a U.S. military housing compound in Seoul.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

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