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SEOUL — Decisions by top-ranking South Korean and U.S. military officials throughout 2007 set in motion historic changes for the two countries, changes expected to ripple down to troops, their families and citizens in both countries for years to come.

In February, the countries agreed to a 2012 deadline to end a decades-old relationship that put Americans in charge of South Korea’s military should war break out. By summer, Korea’s defense ministry announced that a U.S.-South Korean business consortium will manage the expansion of Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, the future home of most U.S. troops on the peninsula.

And in August, the number of accompanied billets in South Korea nearly doubled, a move that will allow more than 5,600 servicemembers to receive money, housing and permission to bring their families with them. The change is part of a long-term goal to make most military tours in South Korea three years, rather than one.

JANUARYJan. 7 The names of two Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials — H. Lee Holloway and Clifton W. Choy — surface in a bribery investigation involving a $206 million contract with SSRT to provide Internet services on U.S. bases in South Korea. As court proceedings progress through the year, testimony reveals that SSRT chief Jeong Gi-hwan allegedly bribed both men. The contract continues, though LG Dacom is now the provider.Jan. 29 Department of Defense Education Activity officials announce that government funding for a home-schooling program for about 400 students — most of them in the Pacific region overseas — will end due to budget constraints.

FEBRUARYFeb. 11 The 2nd Infantry Division commander orders his troops to keep their blood-alcohol concentration below 0.10 percent at all times or face punishment. In later months, officials say alcohol-related incidents have dropped.

MARCHMarch The Pentagon’s top health official approves plans to resume mandatory anthrax vaccinations for troops in South Korea and in the Central Command theater. The vaccines had been voluntary since April 2005.March U.S. Forces Korea begins enforcing a policy that allows only South Koreans to enter U.S. military bases to serve as nannies or other domestic workers.March 3 A staff sergeant who watched as an airman threw a small frog into a running F-16 jet engine receives three months in jail and a bad-conduct discharge in a Kunsan Air Base courtroom. Two others also are punished in the incident, which came to light when a video was posted on MySpace.com. Kunsan’s entire jet aircraft fleet is grounded while mechanics inspect all engines for damage.March 9 Army Pvt. Geronimo Ramirez is sentenced to four years in prison for beating, sodomizing and raping a 66-year-old South Korean woman. The January attack spurs U.S. Forces Korea to place the Hongdae neighborhood off-limits to troops at night, an order that still remains in effect through the year.March 22 The U.S. State Department announces that consulates once again will accept visa petitions for relatives of American citizens living overseas, the beginning of the end to a bottleneck of immigration paperwork that threatened to split military families. Problems started in late January after a new law caused confusion about which federal department should handle the documents.

APRILApril 11 Eligibility rates for free and reduced-price lunches at most overseas military schools increase by nearly nine percent. School officials say a family of four earning $32,500 or less can qualify for free lunches, up from $29,900. A family of four earning $46,250 or less may qualify for reduced-price lunches, up from $42,550.April 22 Kunsan’s 8th Fighter Wing commander restricts troops to base for a week following an attack by two airmen and a civilian on local cabbie Lee Ki-jung. Airman Travis Martens and civilian base employee Paul Chessbro are sentenced to 3½ years in South Korean prison and Airman 1st Class Michael Carpenter is given three years probation. By mid-December, Martens and Chessbro await a Supreme Court ruling on an appeals request.

MayMay 4 Army officials announce drinking water samples at Hannam Village contain traces of mercury. Residents are warned not to use the water; subsequent tests the next week find the water safe. Officials say the initial test results were an anomaly.May 14 AAFES officials recall toys produced by a Hong Kong company because of lead-based paint. But the military stores decline to pull other products made by the same company, Toy Century, saying they are safe. Subsequent tests reveal some of those 22 products also contain lead paint. And just five days before Christmas, AAFES announces the recall of four more of the company’s Soldier Bear toys after “aggressive supplemental testing” shows elevated lead levels

JUNEJune 15 After 13 years in South Korea, the 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery transfers its missile defense mission to the 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery. The move marks the first time the Army sends a battalion-sized unit on a one-year rotation. The 660-member battalions switch places, but the missiles and other inventory stay in place.

JULYJuly Two South Korean AAFES employees are fined more than $1.3 million for their parts in a black-market scheme. Yu Jung-yeol and Yu Gwang-ok were found guilty in June of helping 16 other people involved move 25,000 cases of beer and 633 tons of expired food from the camp into the off-base black market.

AUGUSTAug. 5 Two children, left unsupervised by a parent, are rescued from drowning at the Splish and Splash water park at Camp Humphreys. Lifeguards and bystanders save the South Korean children. After a review, the command implements stricter rules.

SEPTEMBERSept. 6 The first Build-to-Lease barracks in South Korea opens at K-16. The business relationship calls for South Korean companies to pay for the construction and to make back their investment in military lease fees through the years.Sept. 14 Airman 1st Class Jessica Billings, of the 51st Security Forces Squadron at Osan Air Base, pleads guilty to wrongfully distributing Percocet, a narcotic analgesic. She becomes the first of eight Osan-based military police accused of using or distributing the prescription painkiller. Five, including Billings, are found guilty, and one is acquitted. Two are given non-judicial punishment.

OCTOBEROct. 31 The dollar falls against the won to a historic low. On-base Community Bank branches offer 884 won for $1.

NOVEMBERNovember South Korean cable companies run crawlers announcing they will stop rebroadcasting the American Forces Network Pacific Prime channel. American companies attempting to sell programming to the South Korean market raised the issue with U.S. Forces Korea. Command officials urge off-base personnel to buy the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s Direct-to-Home satellite dish service to receive the AFN programming. In late December, cable companies learn they have a cutoff deadline of June 2008.Nov. 2 The 18th Medical Command redesignates three of its major units for medical, dentistry and veterinary services. The Medical Department Activity, Dental Activity and District Veterinary Command are another step toward “normalizing” military tours in South Korea, an effort to make tours here longer and more family-friendly.

DECEMBERDec. 7 Some 10,500 tons of oil pours from a tanker near Malipo Beach on South Korea, creating the worst oil spill in the country’s history. Thousands of people flock to the shoreline to help in the cleanup effort, including experts from the U.S. Coast Guard. Soldiers from 8th U.S. Army also volunteer during the holiday season to scrub oil from rocks and to help save the sea life.Dec. 12 South Korean police nab a man accused of killing one South Korean marine and injuring another days earlier in an attack in which he stole a weapon, a grenade and ammunition. The Ministry of National Defense announces Cho Young-guk will face a military court-martial. Military investigators recommended he face charges he killed the guard and prosecutors were mulling that decision as the year came to a close.Dec. 19 Lee Myung-bak, of the Grand National Party, wins South Korea presidential election in a landslide. He is to be inaugurated on Feb. 25.

Stripes reporters T.D. Flack, Franklin Fisher, Hae-rym Hwang, Jimmy Norris, Ashley Rowland, Erik Slavin and Teri Weaver contributed to this report.

More year in reviewStability in the Pentagon and progress around Iraq

Mideast: Progress in Iraq, but toll for U.S. is still high

Europe: Deployments, weak dollar make ’07 tough

Japan: A year on the move

Okinawa: Deployments and deaths take a toll


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