Government officials in Japan and South Korea typically speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

Government officials in Japan and South Korea typically speak to the media on condition of anonymity. (Pixabay)

Two U.S. service members — one in Japan and another in South Korea — were accused of smashing automobiles in parking lots only days apart.

Okinawa police arrested Air Force Staff Sgt. William Smith, 29, of Kadena Air Base, on Sunday, alleging he smashed “multiple” vehicles at a popular shopping and entertainment district about a mile from the base.

Smith was taken into custody in Chatan after a witness reported a “foreigner hitting a car” in a parking lot at 8:12 p.m., a spokesman for Okinawa prefectural police told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday. Smith fled, but police apprehended him at 8:58 p.m. after he jumped a fence.

“Multiple cars were found damaged in the parking lot,” said the spokesman, who declined to detail the damages or the number of vehicles, citing an ongoing investigation.

Smith was still being held Monday on suspicion of trespassing; police will forward his case to the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office on Tuesday, the spokesman said.

In South Korea, police on May 27 arrested a U.S. service member who reportedly wielded a parking lot fixture to damage three cars in a popular nightlife district in Seoul. Police and U.S. Forces Korea declined to identify the service member.

Police in Seoul’s Mapo district responded to a report of a man striking vehicles with a rubber parking block at 12:50 a.m., a police detective told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday.

The popular district includes Yonsei University, restaurants, bars, neighborhood parks and the Hyundai Department Store.

The service member smashed three cars, including a front and rear windshield with the object, which guides drivers into a parking lane, the detective said. The cars were unoccupied at the time.

Police arrested the man without incident and later identified him as a U.S. service member, the detective said.

South Korean law enforcement authorities often do not identify criminal suspects until their trial.

USFK military police took custody of the service member immediately after his arrest, the detective said. The command’s regulations on criminal jurisdiction under the status of forces agreement between the United States and South Korea allows it to maintain custody of its personnel unless they are accused of serious crimes such as homicide.

Seoul police plan to seek permission from USFK to question the service member, who has yet to be charged, at a later date, the detective said.

USFK takes “all reports of inappropriate behavior seriously” and is cooperating with the Korean National Police, command spokesman Army Col. Isaac Taylor said in an email to Stars and Stripes on Friday.

“This type of alleged behavior does not represent USFK’s values or the respect we hold for Korean people or their culture,” he said. “As this is an ongoing investigation, we will not provide any further comments or statements until the investigation is complete.”

Government officials in Japan and South Korea typically speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

author picture
Keishi Koja is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in August 2022. He studied International Communication at the University of Okinawa and previously worked in education.
David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now