USFK sets time for Facebook feedback
SEOUL — It could soon be last call for the curfew U.S. servicemembers live under in South Korea.
U.S. Forces Korea officials have scheduled a daylong Facebook discussion Wednesday to solicit opinions from servicemembers about the requirement that they not be out in public between 1 and 5 a.m. on weeknights, and between 3 and 5 a.m. on weekends and holidays.
"We are reviewing the policy again and we want your thoughts on the current policy and what your suggestions are for the future," a post on USFK’s Facebook page says in inviting servicemembers to participate in the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. discussion.
USFK spokesman David Oten said no decisions have been made, and it would only be "speculation" at this point whether eliminating the curfew is under consideration.
Late last year, 2nd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Michael Tucker said he had proposed to his superiors — USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp and 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Fil — that the curfew be eliminated as part of a multifaceted plan aimed at instilling self-discipline in soldiers he said now spend too much of their off-duty time drinking to excess and getting into trouble.
"[We] have a huge alcohol-related and discipline problem," Tucker said in December. "What we’re currently doing now is not working well for us, despite our best efforts.
"I think this generation, if you treat them as adults, if you give them responsibility, then they will be responsible," he continued. "You can’t put the chain of command downtown with them 24/7, 365. It’s not going to happen. … So you have to build programs that instill and build self-discipline."
Tucker said he had a committee of 14 working on elements of his plan, which also included a proposal to lower the drinking age from 21 to 19 to match the legal age in South Korea. However, the drinking age proposal will not be a scheduled topic during Wednesday’s Facebook discussion.
The 2nd Infantry Division accounts for about 10,000 of the 28,500 U.S. servicemembers based in South Korea.
The USFK curfew has been a controversial issue in recent years.
In August 2008, Sharp eased the weekend and holiday curfew from 1-5 a.m. to 3-5 a.m. But, in April of last year, Sharp forced all servicemembers on the peninsula to attend a four-hour "Stand Down for Standards" training session on such topics as sexual assault, human trafficking, prostitution and gangs in the military.
The move was made in an attempt to curb a reported rise in assaults, thefts, fistfights and other discipline problems that followed the shortening of the weekend curfew.
During a recent radio show appearance, USFK Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Winzenried said he thinks the curfew question will be a contentious one, "because as I go around, and Gen. Sharp goes around, and Gen. Fil, we ask that question, (and) we get a wide array of responses.
"So, I’m really looking forward to seeing what we get," he said. "I think that’s going to help us as we’re trying to formulate what the curfew policy should morph into."
In what could be a preview of Wednesday’s online discussion, responses to USFK’s announcement — posted on the command’s Facebook page — included one supporting the curfew and another opposing it.
"I believe the curfew in Korea was and is needed for the soldiers there," one post read. "When we were there, it [was a] benefit for the soldiers, even though [they] don’t really understand it."
Another response read, "I believe it was a good thing in the past, but now that we are trying to do tour normalization and family members are here, I think the curfew needs to go away.
"Just like in Germany, leaders need to ensure that soldiers are doing the right things, but if we ever want Korea to be considered a normal tour and encourage soldiers to bring their families, we need to eliminate the curfew."
USFK announced in 2008 it would begin increasing the number of command-sponsored assignments until as many as half the troops stationed here are allowed to bring their families.