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SEOUL — A South Korean judge recommended Friday that the U.S. Embassy Association Business Center pay a $4,000 settlement to an American family for an airline ticket mix-up in 2006.

Marine Col. Thompson Gerke, and his wife, Catherine, want $11,054 for a March 2006 airline ticket mix-up in which they received business-class, not first-class, Delta Air Lines seats.

The Gerke family moved back to the United States earlier this summer, but their South Korean lawyer said Friday he thinks the family would accept a $4,000 settlement.

Business center spokesman Jimmy Park, reached by phone Friday afternoon, said his organization would hold a board meeting to decide whether to settle.

The contracted vendor business center agreed to close its travel service to the U.S. military community in the midst of the battle with the Gerke family.

In court Friday, business center employee Bruce Lee told the judge that Catherine Gerke’s odd behavior — including when she lay down on the floor and screamed that she wanted $20,000 or $30,000 — damaged the center’s credibility.

Judge Cho Mi-ok said that was a separate issue.

Park said Friday that the business center is considering a countersuit.

Prior to leaving South Korea, Catherine Gerke provided Stars and Stripes with more than 140 pages of documents, including e-mail traffic with base officials, 8th Army legal opinions and the findings of Yongsan Garrison’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board.

The Gerkes said they paid nearly $18,000 for what they thought were three round-trip first-class tickets to Virginia when Catherine Gerke’s mother died in March 2006.

She said she was recovering from back surgery and was following doctor’s orders that required her to lie flat during the trip.

At the airport, however, they learned they had business-class seats and paid the airline an additional $5,527 to upgrade to first class on the U.S.-bound flight.

They said the business center should pay them the cost of the upgrade had they flown first class round trip, even though they returned to South Korea in business class.

They said Army lawyers advised them they are owed $11,054, even though they spent only $5,527 for the one-way upgrade.

Park has said business employees misread the ticket codes and poor English translation exacerbated the problem, but that they offered to pay the exact amount the Gerkes paid to upgrade their airline tickets.

The judge set the next court date for Oct. 5.


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