As a Korean New Yorker, I could always lift my middle finger at guys who winked at me on the streets instead of trying to be socially polite like I had done to a winking expat executive from a global company in Seoul. For my own integrity’s sake, I even tried to enlighten him on different cultural connotations to no avail. I did not attend the party adorned in my haute couture to be winked at by a self-obsessed narcissist or a crude womanizer. I went there to enjoy a night of fun to in pleasant company and to relish in specially catered cuisine by slowly improving Korean chefs. Obviously, women do not necessarily decorate themselves to be knocked down by a stranger for the night.
I am surprised that we haven’t blogged about this yet but academia is pretty upset with BBC’s recent investigative (?) undercover reporting from North Korea. For those of you who are not aware – three BBC journalists posed as students and joined a London School of Economics tour to North Korea. For about the last week this has been widely denounced on the Korea Studies board. Both sides – scholars and journalists – have provided their views on the board but I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to copy and paste from it so I will merely link to some of the recent articles in the press:
Sir Peter Sutherland, chairman of the LSE’s board of governors, said the programme created “unacceptable risks” for the school’s reputation and the students involved.
“The BBC unscrupulously used a number of students as human cover for a filming operation without fully informing all of them what was happening,” he said.
I think it would be more accurate – as some have pointed out – that the harm was not so much to their physical beings as it is to their reputation and the effect this will have on their future dealings with NK. BBC, however, defends its position with:
The BBC has defended its actions, saying the film was strongly in the public interest.
Head of news programmes Ceri Thomas said the North Korean government was the only party the corporation had deceived.
He said the students had been informed of the risks on three separate occasions and authorisation for the trip had gone “right to the top” within the BBC.
“We think the risks as we explained them to the students were justified… but had we had any suggestion that lives were at risk… we wouldn’t have gone anywhere near this,” he said.
If I remember right, the students were allegedly told that only one journalist was going with them – it was only later – after it was too late, that they were told that there were three.
We cannot condemn too strongly the dishonesty and irresponsible behaviour that endangered the liberty and possibly even the lives of the young people on a trip to North Korea. Even though they returned unscathed, it appears to have escaped the notice of the BBC that they have probably caused even longer-lasting damage. Many academic disciplines, including anthropology and archaeology, with which we are all concerned, undertake academic research not only in North Korea, but in other countries that are not favourably inclined to academic research. Now they will have a reason to reject research projects altogether. So future knowledge may well have been jeopardised as the result of the scandalous behaviour of a few and for what – a film that shows nothing more than the normal tourist’s view of North Korea?
And, one of my favorite quotes:
When intelligence agencies use journalists as cover to gather information on hard-to-penetrate regimes, they are rightly condemned – not least by journalists – for threatening the safety of those working in the profession. So regardless of the quality or otherwise of the information gathered in North Korea by Panorama, for journalists to use academic cover is profoundly hypocritical. If students were misled as to the precise involvement of BBC journalists, then that compounds the offence.
A Korean guy went around to about 300 drugstores in the greater Seoul area to buy cold medicine, from which an Australian cook extracted the materials he needed to cook meth in a lab set up in a factory building in an industrial area of Incheon.
They’d produced about 33 billion won of product (10 kg). Which, if I’ve got my numbers right, is about US$29 million. Which really does seem like Walter White territory.
Judging from the news reports, a lot of this product was being moved to Australia—because of Korea’s relatively drug-free reputation, mules coming in on flights from Korea apparently have an easier time slipping by Hojustani customs. In fact, this case was broken open when an Australian drug mule got busted at Incheon with a shit load of meth wrapped around his body.
Police have so far arrested a Korean and Australian and are looking for three other Australians. They’ve also let the Australian police know who they are looking for.
US 8th Army has released a statement on the recent spate of incidents:
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea – Eighth Army released the following statement after a series of recent incidents involving Eighth Army Soldiers:
“We are aware and concerned by recent incidents involving our service members. In every case, we have and are continuing to fully cooperate with local law enforcement officials.
“In accordance with the SOFA, Soldiers are subject to Korean law and we continue to work in complete cooperation with the KNP and ROK Ministry of Justice to ensure those laws are respected.
“Eighth Army absolutely does not condone and will not tolerate misconduct. Pending the outcome of a Korean National Police investigation and actions by the Ministry of Justice, any Soldier convicted of a crime will be considered for additional command action, to include separation from the United States Army.
“We are taking deliberate measures and actions to address all acts of misconduct and inappropriate behavior.
“Immediate actions by the units involved include suspension of alcohol consumption, termination of all three and four day weekend passes, immediate accountability of all personnel, execution of personal conduct training, review and identification of service members who do not meet Army conduct standards, and leadership seminars that will focus on Army Values, Soldier responsibilities and cultural awareness and respect.
“Our service members are expected to be respectful, honorable and faithful neighbors to our Korean hosts and we will continue to work with our Republic of Korea allies to hold accountable any service member who has been found to violate that trust. It is not reflective of the honorable actions of thousands of Soldiers who serve today in this period of increased tensions.
“We are grateful for the continued support of our local friends and neighbors in the community as we work to be better neighbors The ROK-U.S. Alliance is the strongest in the world and the actions of a few will not undo over 60-years of collaboration and mutual respect.“
Another incident involving a US soldier occurred over the weekend.
According to the news, at approximately 3 A.M. at a restaurant near Seoul’s Hongdae area, a US soldier entered a bathroom and began making a commotion. The restaurant owners called the police in response. According to one of the employees, the soldier in question had struck the paper towel and soap dispensers before collapsing to the floor. Restaurant employees asked him to leave to no avail.
When the police arrived the soldier resisted arrest, punching and grabbing one of the police officers, breaking the officer’s glasses and ripping his clothes in the process. He continued his antics back at the police station where he continued to throw around police officers and eventually had to be subdued with a taser.
MOFAT has urged USFK to come up with a solution to prevent such incidents in the future.
I can think of a solution that would stop such incidents entirely and save US taxpayers billions of dollars.
They were the only two on the elevator at the time.
Frightened, she tried to hit the emergency bell, but the GI grabbed her wrist to stop her. He then ran off. Or so it is alleged.
The whole incident took 10 seconds.
Fortunately, police were able to use the CCTV footage to identify the (allegedly) pervy perp. When questioned by the cops, he strongly denied the charges, but when confronted with the CCTV footage, he exercised his right to silence. Or so it be reported.
After questioning, he was handed over to the American MPs. Police will continue to investigate.
According to the cops, the suspect—identified as Mr. J (48)—nearly hit the car of a one Mr. Choe (42) on the road near Oseong IC.
J stopped his car and got into an argument with Choe. Unable to control his anger, J got out of his car, took out a fishing knife from his trunk, and waved it several times at Choe through the half-open passenger-side window, curing as he did so.
Feeling threatened, Choe tried to pull away, but J gave chase, scratching Choe’s car with his knife twice.
Choe then got out of his car, picked up a rock and protested, “What’s your problem? I’m a Korean cop.” At which point J fled.
Or so it has been “confirmed,” says Yonhap, quoting mostly from the police.
Choe called the cops, and J was stopped by police 15 minutes later. The police say J did not resist arrest and confessed everything.
During the investigation, J testified that he had felt endangered when Choe’s car came at him from the opposite direction as he tried to make a U-turn on the left-turn light. Police plan to use the cars’ blackboxes and nearby CCTV footage to determine who did what and hand out fines.
A USFK contractor, J reportedly served in the US military for 16 years.
As he falls under the SOFA, he was turned over to US MPs after the arrest.
Interestingly enough, J’s family are complaining that J was treated unfairly during the investigation on account of his US citizenship.
In a phone call with Yonhap, J’s wife claimed he was being treated like a criminal because of anti-Americanism and that the cops only listened to Choe’s side of the story and didn’t ask her husband a single thing at the station.
She also said it was Choe who started the whole thing by nearly killing her husband by running the light, and that it was Choe who threatened her husband with a rock as he lie on the ground, haven fallen when Choe suddenly pulled away as J was holding the passenger seat side of Choe’s car.
It’s all so unfair, she said.
Luckily, we have some video footage of the incident, courtesy Dong-A TV.
Would love to see the entire footage to get a better idea of what happened. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if both sides are at fault, nor would it surprise me that after BB and the Gang, the KNP isn’t being especially courteous to USFK personnel who get arrested. Oh, and is Choe really a cop? If not, is claiming to be a cop illegal?
Then again, the cops say he admitted everything (and in the video, he does say he pulled out a knife), and it wouldn’t surprise me if J’s wife is just playing the police bigotry card.
Either way, though, can somebody explain to me why ANYONE attached to USFK would be pulling out a knife on a Korean civilian NOW? Is USFK aiming for some sort of political Darwin Award?
And in other fun USFK-related news, it has been learned that some of the seven American MPs involved in last year’s incident in which three Korean civilians were handcuffed near a US base in Pyeongtaek left Korea between late last year and recently. Prosecutors allowed the GIs to leave after getting from the US military written confirmations and guarantees that the suspects would appear for questioning whenever prosecutors asked, but it’s unlikely to make many people happy and controversy is expected.
Their message, BTW, can be boiled down to, “Why the fuck are you guys doing this shit when we need to strengthen the Korea—US alliance and boost security against the North at a time when Pyongyang is threatening us with nuclear attacks?”
- The Hani reports that the female soldier, a 22-year-old corporal, testified to the cops that she is the one who shot the BBs in Itaewon. She said she did so for fun. The guy who owned the car, the staff sergeant, apparently carried in his car three BB guns, which were purchased in Itaewon last year. Anyway, there is now suspicion that the three may have regularly shot BBs at locals for fun. The cops think the other two shot BBs that evening, too, but they deny it so far. And yeah, the two corporals are saying the staff sergeant was the driver, and the staff sergeant is saying the corporal who got shot was driving.
- MBC ran an interview with a HUFS professor to discuss the SOFA. As expected, he complained that the Korea—US SOFA is not as favorable to Korea as America’s SOFA agreements with Japan and NATO countries—he cites that other SOFAs make it easier for local cops to take possession of suspects that flee onto US bases, and the SOFA with Japan allows cops to interrogate suspects even without the presence of a US military official. However, the professor also noted that the Korea—US SOFA includes “excessive privileged” for defendants, including protections against prosecutors appealing acquittals. It’s a longish interview that probably deserves a fuller summary, but I think that point is important because I can’t see any way USFK allows its men to be subject to double jeopardy. Making it easier for the Korean cops to take possession and detain GI suspects is another matter, though, and frankly, I’d have no problem even allowing Korean cops the right to ‘hot pursuit.”
- And indeed, Korean government officials are now saying they will begin discussions with the United States, possibly from the end of this month, to revise the SOFA to make it easier for Korean police to detain GI suspects and expanding the number of crimes subject to transfer at indictment. They Koreans also want to reduce the scope of what constitutes USFK’s “execution of duties,” mostly because of last year’s incident in Osan in which USFK MPs handcuffed local civilians. That matter is being delayed because the MPs are claiming this happened while they were on duty, giving USFK primary jurisdiction.
Police investigations have so far turned up that the GIs in question shot the BBs for fun (apparently something of a USFK tradition), something the suspects told investigators they do regularly. The couple tested negative for drugs, but the cops plan to conduct a more thorough test. The problem is that the three are blaming one another, with the shot corporal claiming the sergeant was the guy doing the shooting and driving, while the sergeant claims it was the corporal who did the shooting and driving. Interestingly enough, the testimony of the female soldier who joined in the spree—often identified as the wife of the sergeant—reportedly matches that of the shot corporal.
They apparently also told police they fled out of fear when they got pounced upon by police and local residents, that they bought the BB rounds at a stationary store near Itaewon, that they were too afraid to remember hitting the cop, and that they didn’t actually shoot anyone with the BBs, but rather shot at signboards and the like.
Do we really have to take these guys back after they complete their jail sentences here?
Let nobody fault CBS’s Byeon Sang-wook for a short memory. He cites the very first GI crime in Korea ever, which took place on Sept 8, 1945. As US troops were landing at Incheon, the US military used Japanese police to keep locals from entering Incheon Harbor. Despite this, some locals gathered at the harbor carrying Korean and American flags to welcome the Americans. The Japanese police fired on the crowd for entering a restricted area, killing two and wounding about 10.
The US 7th Division left a solitary infantry regiment in Incheon and headed to Seoul the next day, where at 4 pm they officially accepted the surrender of Japanese troops in Korea and raised the US flag over the Government-General building. At the same time, a funeral for the dead Koreans was held in Incheon. When it was finished, the families of the victims filed a complaint with the US military authorities against the Japanese cops, but a US court martial found that the shooting was justified as the crowd had crossed the police line. This, says Byeon, was the first crime ever committed by the US military in Korea—accessory to murder.
Byeon goes on—to sum up, he thinks the big problem is that US soldiers act not like allies but as an occupation force, and this thinking needs to change. He also thinks the SOFA needs to be revised to instill a sense of fear in GIs.
The other cretin, a one Pvt. Dixon, has yet to be questioned as he’s still in the hospital with a gun shot wound to the shoulder.
If it’s shown that they did fire BB guns at civilians, they could face additional charges.
KBS also notes the rising GI crime rate. In recent years, GIs have been responsible for over 300 crimes a year, of which only 6% result in indictments. Most are given non-prosecution dispositions, and because of this, GI crimes sometimes ignite anti-American feelings. KBS notes that SOFA rules make it difficult for Korean cops to secure GIs accused of crimes when they fail to arrest them in the act. The broadcaster also notes that many point to the light punishments handed out to GIs who commit crimes and poor measures to prevent recurrences as the reasons for continuing GI crimes, and the answer is to revise the SOFA.
OK, I’m going to be honest here. There are things both sides could do to keep crime down—the stricter pre-2008 nighttime curfew seemed to reduce crime rates, and judging from some of the crime reports I see, I wonder if USFK is doing enough to instill in its men and women a sense of respect for the locals. Come on guys, 300 crimes a year? Sure, a lot of it is small stuff (hence the non-prosecution dispositions), but even little shit adds up.
You’ll never reduce the crime rate to zero in a population of 25,000 with lots of young men, however. The poor, stupid and criminally psychotic will always be with us.
To sum up the important part, yes, we know that since 2002, USFK has been working hard to contain incidents, quickly apologizing every time a GI does something criminal. GIs are still committing over 300 crimes a year, however—just last month, six GIs sexually harassed a young Korean women on the Uijeongbu tram, after which the base commander visited Uijeongbu to apologize and pledge that incidents like this would not happen again.
Over the last five years, GIs have committed about 2,200 crimes, but in only four of these did the Korean cops get to detain the suspects while they investigated. Because of the SOFA, it’s almost impossible for Korean cops to get GI suspects delivered unless they catch them in the act.
Ye Olde Chosun called on USFK to actively cooperate with the police investigation and use the opportunity to craft a plan to fundamentally reduce the amount of mischief committed by its men. If this doesn’t happen, Koreans will inevitably call for revisions to the SOFA no matter how much the American and Korean authorities explain the meaning and necessity of the agreement.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the Hani also ran an editorial on the incident. As expected, they note that because of the SOFA, the Korean side is unable to conduct proper investigations—even the 2001 revision merely allowed Korean cops to take possession of a suspect from the point of indictment instead after the trial… and for just 12 kinds of crimes at that. Anyway, the Hani’s tired of the constant apologies followed by slaps on the wrist.
My personal favorite editorial on the matter was courtesy the Dong-A Ilbo, which opened right away by noting that this incident was brought about because American GIs hold Korean cops in contempt—the GIs in question know full well if they’d pulled this stunt in the United States the cops would have shot to kill.
The Dong-A was also unhappy about USFK asking the Korean cops to delay their questioning of the driver because he’s on painkillers, which they regard as less-than-enthusiastic cooperation with the Korean cops. They probably offer the best advice out of all the papers—US military authorities need to beef up their training on off-base activities and instill a sense of respect for Korean law and the Korean authorities.
Now, I’m no USFK authority, but I’m doing what I can in a private capacity to bolster the American fighting man’s respect for Korean law:
Would the 미군 please stop 난동ing. Thank you for your cooperation.
One U.S. soldier admitted Monday that he and two colleagues shot a Korean civilian with a BB gun, hit a policeman with a car and ran away on a rampage in Itaewon on Saturday night, police said.
A second suspect identified by police by her first name “Wendy” appeared at the station at 6:00 p.m. Police said that they suspect the 21-year-old corporal shot the BB gun at a Korean citizen surnamed Ahn based on testimony by Ahn and other police officers who approached them.
Nothing you haven’t seen before, although it does got some cool footage of a rumble between a Russian and a Mongolian in a sauna near Dongdaemun’s Little Mongolia.
Also on the foreigner crime front, Incheon Immigration officials have announced that a Pakistani who was deported in 1999 after he sexually assaulted a young Korean woman while residing here illegally has been rearrested in Seoul posing as a businessman. Despite a reentry ban, he’d reentered Korea on a laundered identity.
The Pakistani in question was given a suspended sentence and subsequently deported for molesting a 23-year-old woman who was playing the the waters off Busan’s Haeundae Beach. He apparently dragged her out to the deep water and assaulted her after rendering her unable to resist.
So, how’s the month long “strengthening of public order in areas with lots of foreigners” campaign going? Well, not bad, according to Yonhap. The campaign—conducted in six areas—has netted 464 arrests, with 29 being confined and 435 booked without confinement.
Some 40.1% of the arrests were for simple assault, followed by 16.2% for gambling.
The cops netted 62 on immigration law crimes. They also got some really bad dudes, too, including four muggers, three rapists and eight on drug offenses.
On a positive note, the Chosun Ilbo’s business paper reports that for Korea’s major telecom firms, foreigners have gone from being a problem to being a golden egg. Not so long ago, these companies looked at the foreigner market as something they didn’t really want but didn’t want to completely abandon, either. This was because the phones were often used by foreigners to commit crimes and many foreigners left the country without paying their bills. But with the local market now flooded, telecom companies now see resident foreigners as a way out.
In fact—and jot this down, because it’ll be on the test—not only did Mongolians, Americans, Canadians and Russians have higher rates of criminality than your average foreigner, but their rates of criminality were higher than that of Koreans.
According to the study, entitled “Research into Crime and Public Safety in Areas with a High Concentration of Foreigners,” the Mongolian community had 7,064 criminals per 100,000 Mongolians in 2011, followed by the American community (6,756 per 100,000), Canadians (4,124 per 100,000) and Russians (3,785 per 100,000). These rates were higher than both the general foreigner rate of criminality of 2,763 per 100,000 and the Korean rate of criminality of 3,692 per 100,000.
This is why I never invite people to our home—between my wife and me, it’s virtually Detroit in there.
Interestingly, criminals of European descent (i.e., honkies) had higher rates of physical crimes like assaults, while criminals of Asian descent had higher rates of “smart crimes” like fraud. According to the Herald Gyeongje, this ran counter to the commonly held belief that crimes by Asian criminals were more brutal and dangerous.
It does, however, support the commonly held belief that Asians are better at math. OK, I added that last part. You’ve got to give me some comedic leeway here.
Anyway, Chinese—including Joseon-jok—had a criminality rate of just 2,921 per 100,000. Thais and Pakistanis had higher rates of criminality than the foreigner average, while Vietnamese, Filipinos and Indonesians had lower rates of criminality than the foreigner average.
By crime type, Americans were the most prone to violent crime (33.4%), followed by the Canadians (33.4%), Mongolians (27.3%—nice to see them breaking the Asian stereotype) and Russians (23.4%). Meanwhile, for “smart crimes” like fraud, the Taiwanese led the way with 45.5%, followed by the Bengalis (33.1%) and Chinese (30.3%).
The ratio of rapes to other crimes was highest for Pakistanis (3%), followed by Uzbeks (2.6%), Benalis (2.1%) and Americans (1.3%).
Marmot’s Note: No, I have no idea how they did their study. Ask Choi Yeong-sik at the KIC.
UPDATE: I find the graph of arrests per 100,000 interesting, too:
The graph certainly begs the question, “Why have the Americans become so knavish since 2009?” Note that according to the graph, USFK members and their dependents are included in the American total.
The incident reportedly took place on the Incheon-bound train from Dongducheon on Saturday evening.
During the police investigation, the victim—indentified as a Ms. B—said the servicemen were playing music loudly and dancing in the subway. She told them to be quiet, and that’s when she was attacked. She told police the GIs, who were drunk, started photographing her face, and when she protested, they started groping her. For several minutes.
B called the cops, and three of the GIs were arrested at Mangwolsa Station and turned over to American MPs. Police are looking for the other three, who fled the scene.
In a statement, 2ID said the division is taking the charges of inappropriate conduct very seriously, and that they will cooperate so that the appropriate measures are taken in accordance with the investigation results.