Protests expected as rape trial for U.S. soldier begins in S. Korea
SEOUL – The soldier accused of raping an 18-year-old South Korean woman near Camp Casey last month will stand trial Friday in Uijeongbu.
Pfc. Kevin Lee Flippin, 21, of Columbia, Mo., is scheduled to appear in Uijeongbu District Court at 10:40 a.m., according to court officials.
The Sept. 24 incident, along with an earlier case in which police alleged that a Yongsan Garrison soldier raped another 18-year-old woman, has stoked considerable public anger and led to protests outside the U.S. embassy in Seoul.
Civic groups and other organizations plan to demonstrate outside the courthouse Friday, court officials said.
Police told Stars and Stripes earlier this month that Flippin had confessed to getting drunk and raping the woman in her dormitory-style apartment in the city of Dongducheon.
He used a knife and scissors during the attack, police said.
Flippin has not been made available for comment, and Army officials have not commented on the soldier’s actions in advance of the trial. Maj. Gen. Edward Cardon, the 2nd Infantry Division’s commander, did offer a public apology for the incident.
The two high-profile incidents have sparked a political debate over whether the current status of forces agreement allows South Korean law enforcement officials to properly investigate U.S. servicemembers suspected of crimes.
Army officials turned over Flippin earlier this month after South Korean officials requested custody, as called for under the bilateral agreement following indictments for heinous offenses.
When servicemembers are suspected of lesser offenses or South Korean officials do not request transfer, soldiers are allowed to remain in U.S. custody. The second soldier, whose alleged crimes took place on Sept. 17, remains in U.S. custody.
Suspects in U.S. custody must still be made available to South Korean investigators.
Meanwhile, a newly created government task force to investigate U.S. servicemember crime was scheduled to convene Thursday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The foreign ministry, the defense ministry and the national police planned to discuss the status of forces agreement, a foreign ministry spokesman said. The task force also planned to schedule a trip to the Yongsan police station to speak with investigators about any difficulties they might have in pursuing military suspects.
In late November, the South Korean government’s Joint SOFA Committee has also scheduled a meeting to discuss whether to ask U.S. officials for changes to the status of forces agreement.