Crime In The USFK

20 Mar

Pyeongtaek ProtestSouth Korea’s leftist daily, Hankyoreh, thinks South Korea has become American service members’ “playground for criminal activity“.

In recent days, US forces in Korea have been responsible for a series of crimes. This past weekend alone, there were three altercations in the Seoul area involving US GIs. And only two weeks ago three US soldiers caused a late-night disturbance in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood and shot a BB gun at citizens and the police officers who were in pursuit and fleeing from the scene…

After midnight on Mar. 17, there were two incidents in a row in which drunken US soldiers committed acts of violence around Seoul’s Hongdae area and then assaulted the police officers who tried to stop them.


Crimes by US soldiers increased from 239 in 2007 to 264 in 2012, but the percentage of soldiers who were not prosecuted actually increased from 38.6% to 67%. These Ministry of Justice statistics illustrate the complacent attitude the Korean judicial authorities take to crimes by the US military.

GI Korea has a rejoinder, a bit apples and oranges, though, because the the time frame of the Hani’s and GI Korea’s respective analyses are not completely congruent. Still, there is not an epidemic of lawlessness in South Korea caused by foreign invaders.

It is important to keep in mind that this is 137 criminal convictions out of a population of up to reportedly 28,500 USFK servicemembers in South Korea. This comes out to .005 of the USFK population that has been convicted of a crime. We are talking very small numbers here. It is also important to remember that the crime rate is rising mostly because of traffic related incidents. So that is why I have always believed the best way to look at the USFK crime rate is to look at major crimes.


So the only major crime category where the USFK ratio is higher than the Korean ratio is for burglary for whatever reason. Something else to keep in mind is that the USFK ratio is actually lower when one considers that only 24 people committed the 31 major crime convictions. So basically out of 28,500 service members in USFK there is 24 serious criminals. Even though this is a very small number because of the two high profile rape incidents this number could of been two people and it would not have mattered because the perception would remain that GI crime is out of control.

Mind you, again, GI Korea looked at 2011 and the Hani, 2012. It’s possible USFK crime rates are getting worse, as the Hani alleges. It’s the ratio that matters.

On a related note, I was looking at corruption. Over the last decade-and-a-half, South Korea has not really improved its corruption problems. According to Transparency International, in its “Exporting Corruption? Country Enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, Progress Report 2012″, South Korea’s rating has held steady for the decade, which is laudable, but it’s still worse than the United States’ ranking. In the early half of the last decade there were a number of bribery cases, including the Seo Case and Aulson and Sky, involving USFK brass and South Korean officials. 2006 looked to be a very bad year, too. I’m not entirely sure what to make of these cases, but I’m concerned about it.

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