S. Korean student sentenced in assault on GI
August 1, 2004
SEOUL — A South Korean college student was sentenced to three years probation Friday for assaulting and abducting an American soldier during an ugly clash with anti-American protesters in a Seoul subway two years ago.
Koh Min-soo, a 24-year-old Yongin University student, also was fined around $8,500, according to Seoul District Court officials. The student was under investigation for 18 months, and 20 more students remain under investigation, officials said.
The Sept. 14, 2002, incident came after relations between the U.S. military and South Korea hit new lows after two 13-year-old Korean schoolgirls were run over and killed by a U.S. armored vehicle in June 2002. Two U.S. soldiers were tried on charges of negligent homicide but acquitted in November 2002.
In a stroke of poor luck, Pvts. John Murphy, Eric Owens and Shane Tucker — all 2nd Infantry Division soldiers at Camp Red Cloud — got on a subway train full of anti-American protesters on their way to a rally. Murphy refused to accept a flyer protesting the girls’ deaths from Suh Kyung-won, a former South Korean assemblyman.
Suh accused Murphy of throwing the first punch, and the crowd enveloped the soldiers, chasing them off the train. Police took custody of Owens and Tucker and U.S. Forces Korea maintains Murphy was abducted and taken against his will to Kyunghee University hospital to apologize to Suh.
The chase scene and the apology were captured on video by the protesters. A rattled Murphy apologized repeatedly to Suh who was lying in a hospital bed, saying he swung back. “I was scared because everybody was hitting me,” Murphy said on the video.
USFK maintained that Suh punched first while others joined in the assault. Seoul prosecutors never pursued charges against Murphy and relinquished jurisdiction over to the U.S. military.
In his ruling, Judge Kim Byong-yong said the assault was provoked by an attack on an older Korean man angry over the death of the two girls. However, Kim said Koh’s behavior was inappropriate.
— Jennifer Kleckner contributed to this report.