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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — Police in Gwangju seized three U.S. soldiers in an alleged indecent exposure incident Sunday evening on a subway train and turned them over to the U.S. military.

One of the soldiers allegedly exposed his genital area upon boarding the subway car, sat down next to a 35-year-old female passenger, then, with a digital camera, appeared to take a photo of his genital area, according to police.

His two companions allegedly laughed out loud and made sexually suggestive motions that included spreading their legs apart, police said.

The alleged episode was carried out in front of about 10 passengers, police said. Some of the passengers made cell-phone calls to police.

Gwangju, 170 miles south of Seoul, is in South Jeolla Province in the peninsula’s southwest. Gwangju has long had a reputation for lingering anti-American sentiment dating to the 1980 Gwangju uprising and related events.

May 1980 saw South Korean military forces quell an uprising by students and other pro-democracy demonstrators calling for a presidential election and an end to martial law. The crackdown resulted in many deaths, the actual number of which is still disputed.

Police said the soldiers — a corporal and two privates first class — are members of the Army’s Battery B, 2nd Battalion, and 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment — based at Gwangju Air Base, a South Korean air force installation. The unit is part of the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, a Patriot missile unit with firing batteries at several locations on the peninsula.

U.S. Forces Korea in Seoul issued the following statement yesterday afternoon:

“USFK deeply regrets yesterday’s … incident on the KwangjuSubway. We apologize for this offense to the community, and we pledge that we will cooperate fully with Korean National Police to ensure a full investigation of this incident.”

USFK spokesman David Oten didn’t identify the three soldiers yesterday, but said they had not been charged and had been released to their unit pending further investigation.

The episode began around 6:05 p.m. when the three soldiers allegedly boarded the train at Hwajeong station, police said. They exited the train at Ssangcheon station.

There, police said, they met the train and took the three into custody.

A check of the digital camera failed to yield any photographs that showed any of the alleged misconduct, police said; the subway car was not equipped with closed-circuit TV cameras.

Later Sunday, police turned the three over to the U.S. military in Gwangju.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.


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