Police probe possibility of soldiers' role in brawl at Pusan
January 8, 2004
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — South Korean police are investigating an early December brawl near Pusan that may have involved a handful of U.S. soldiers and civilians, police said Tuesday.
At least two U.S. soldiers and one civilian from Camp Hialeah have been questioned repeatedly between Dec. 12 and Dec. 26, police said. Three South Koreans also have been questioned in relation to the fight.
Officials from 8th Army could not confirm names or other information about the questioned U.S. soldiers.
The three Americans allegedly fought two restaurant owners identified only by their last names, Pyon and Kim, at about 5 a.m. Dec. 7 in front of Pyon’s and Kim’s restaurant, said Detective Kim Hyong-su, Pusan Nambu Police Station’s Foreign Affairs Division.
Kim also was stabbed in the throat with an unknown sharp item, the detective said. The two Korean men were hospitalized for almost a month after the incident, police said.
The brawl began as a dispute between a 22-year-old Korean college student and his girlfriend, police said, which escalated into a fistfight between the student and Pyon. Police said the student, who had met the soldiers earlier in the day at a nearby bar, then called on the soldiers to help him.
Police also are investigating whether the three South Korean men should face criminal charges, detectives said.
Kim said a passer-by detained one of the soldiers as he was running away from the fight, and witnesses said up to ten others were involved in the altercation.
Two of the U.S. soldiers and one of the U.S. civilians face assault charges, officials said, but South Korean police have not asked for them to be turned over because assault is not considered one of the dozen serious crimes for which South Korea can ask for U.S. soldiers’ pretrial custody.
Kim said Tuesday he still was trying to confirm the identities of others thought to be involved in the brawl.
Army officials said Tuesday they did not yet have information on the case.