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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea will take a “hard look” at recommendations in a Defense Department report saying military police don’t report sex trafficking activities if there is a lack of hard evidence.

Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, 8th Army commander and USFK chief of staff, said in a written statement to Stars and Stripes that the command is encouraged by the inspector general’s “positive response to our aggressive actions so far in addressing these illegal and wholly unacceptable activities.”

The inspector general report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the military lacks understanding of trafficking issues. Military police, it said, were sometimes overly friendly with bar owners during their patrols and failed to report trafficking activity.

Said Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, 8th Army public affairs officer, “I’m not ready to comment on the report that I haven’t seen and the verbiage that somebody decided to attribute on relationships that are a snapshot in view. The relationships are professional. Our military police and courtesy patrols are professional in the performance of their duties.”

A Fox News report last year linked the U.S. military to a thriving sex trade where women from countries such as the Philippines and Russia were held against their will, their passports seized, and forced to provide sex and sell drinks to patrons. It alleged military patrols were providing security for soldiers soliciting prostitutes.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., requested a Pentagon inquiry after viewing the report.

Campbell said USFK will work “to implement additional measures to enhance the overall effectiveness of our established and aggressive programs.”

The report said the military has a misperception that suspicious trafficking activities must be backed with hard evidence, The Associated Press reported. Commanders did not take steps to place bars off-limits because of this, the report said. The report also recommended further education for servicemembers on trafficking issues, the AP reported.

Goh Hyun-ung, chief of the Seoul office of the International Organization for Migration, which studies sex trafficking, said the inspector general contacted his organization during its investigation. Goh said he has not seen the report but believes the inspector general was “right in pointing out there is a misconception about trafficking with military personnel.”

“I think it’s a bit naive to say the command is not aware of what’s going on, so I agree with the misperception part,” Goh said. “But if the report argues the command was not aware of what’s going on, I think that’s not showing the whole picture of Korea.”

Goh said he believes inspector general personnel acted faithfully in listening to all viewpoints.

Son Ae-lee, secretary of the Ministry of Gender Equality’s women’s-rights planning division, said she could not comment on the report because she had not seen it. But it’s not just about trafficking, Son said.

It’s important for soldiers to realize that even if women are prostituting themselves voluntarily, it’s still illegal under Korean law, Son said. Buying a person with money should be recognized as morally and ethically wrong, she said.

“If USFK is planning to educate to reduce the sex trade, that would a proper measure to solve the sex-trade problem,” Son said.

The reality is, though, the trafficking situation may be beyond USFK capacity to solve, said Yu Yong-nim, head of My Sister’s Place in Uijongbu, a nongovernmental organization that helps women who have been involved in the sex trade. The military presence exacerbates the sex trade problem, but the issue is one that needs to be addressed on a higher level by both the U.S. and South Korean governments, she said.

Outside camptown entertainment districts, uniformed personnel — both military police and courtesy patrol soldiers — make nightly rounds of bars, checking for problems or curfew violations. They often patrol with Korean National Police.

In March, the U.S. military distributed a list of prohibited bars, many of which were cited for selling sex. Others were banned for allowing underage drinking and for force-protection concerns.

Bars can reapply to the base to be reinstated once they prove they have corrected the problems.

Hundreds of soldiers are arriving for Ulchi Focus Lens, an annual training exercise that starts Aug. 18. Soldiers are receiving welcome packets and briefings on which bars are off-limits, said Lt. Col. Stephen Murray, garrison commander at Camp Casey.

Soldiers routinely receive briefings and updates on the sex trade and what bars to avoid, Boylan said. It’s the stated policy of USFK “that we do not support or condone human trafficking,” Boylan said.

“It’s not what we are here for.”

— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.

Updated list

Area I

Uijongbu: NoneTongduchon: Sexy Club, Pars clubCamp Hovey back gate: Smackers club

Area II

Itaewon:ABC ClubAmbrosia ClubBar StarbuttsBest ClubBlue Rain (formerly Kiss in the Dark Club)BostonBridgeCheers ClubClub 3Coyote UglyDreamsEve Club (formerly Dragon Club)Forever Together ClubHawaii ClubHong Dae University areaHypnotic Club (formerly Dallas Club)Indian Joe’sIsibilsegi’s ClubJ Club (formerly First Class Club)Markings Club (formerly Townhouse Dawn)Mimi’s (formerly Spanki Bar)Moulin RougeNumber OneNymphOne More TryRed FoxRainbowRoyalSunny’s ClubTae Pyung HotelTexas ClubTiffany’s Club (formerly Cocktail Bar)Tiger TavernTrans Rose ClubYes Bar

Area IIINone

Area IVOdessey ClubOsan Air Base: None

Kunsan:Oriental Club, Inner Port Bar area at night

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