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SEOUL — The 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command will being interviewing all South Koreans who have been granted base access passes, following allegations that a long-time employee illegally sold the passes.

In a press release issued Monday, the command said it has made “internal changes” to the process for issuing passes through the Good Neighbor Program and will require all current pass holders to be interviewed by March 2. If applicants are unwilling or unable to attend an interview, “those pass holders will undergo further review and possible suspension,” the press release said.

The interviews, which will be conducted by the Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, will allow officials to determine the pass holder’s participation in the Good Neighbor Program — a U.S. Forces Korea community outreach group that sponsors activities such as an annual summer English camp for South Korean students and tours of Seoul for the military.

“The details [of the program] are restricted from the public to preserve the integrity of the investigation,” according to a statement from the 19th ESC public affairs office. “All efforts to diligently bring closure to the investigation are underway.”

A South Korean community relations specialist who has worked for the 19th ESC for 17 years is under investigation by the Criminal Investigation Command for illegally selling passes.

South Korean police in Seoul are also investigating accusations that two men sold 81 passes between 2006 and 2011 to friends and business associates while stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan. The men have confessed to selling the passes for between 200,000 won and 3.3 million won each, or approximately $174 and $2,878, after falsely claiming the passes were being issued to South Koreans who participated in goodwill activities with the military, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. One of the men is a retired lieutenant colonel who formerly worked for the Combined Forces Command, and the other was a special adviser for international relations to a former USFK commander.

USFK said in a statement issued Monday that “we are in the process of reviewing Good Neighbor passes to ensure they are in compliance with the program’s policies and regulation,” but offered no further details.

Approximately 6,000 base passes have been issued through the program. Another 34,000 base passes have been to South Koreans, mostly to USFK civilian employees, contractors, and members of the South Korean military whose work supports the U.S. military.

Good Neighbor passes are generally requested by an O-6 level commander and approved by a general officer or his or her representative, according to USFK.

The program works “to educate, inform, and familiarize the Korean community with the USFK mission through direct engagement, while promoting mutual understanding of one another’s cultures, customs, and lifestyles,” according to the Good Neighbor Program’s website.

The Good Neighbor Program was started following the 2002 deaths of two South Korean girls who were run over by a U.S. military vehicle near Dongducheon, triggering violent protests outside U.S. bases and a public relations nightmare for the military.

Having access to USFK bases and facilities such as restaurants and golf courses is considering a sign of status in South Korea.

Stars and Stripes’ Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this story.

rowlanda@pstripes.osd.mil


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