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‘Korea not exercising jurisdiction over most USFK crime’

Nearly 7 in 10 criminal offenses committed by members of US forces stationed in South Korea end up with no one being charged by South Korean authorities, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

According to government data released Tuesday by Rep. Park Byeong-seug of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, the nonprosecution rate for crimes committed by US military personnel here stands at a whopping 70.7 percent as of July this year, up from 58.2 percent in 2014. 

Ministry of Justice (Yonhap)
Ministry of Justice (Yonhap)

The figure for violent crimes, including murder, rape and robbery, is even higher at 81.3 percent, meaning 8 out of 10 offenders do not go through the Korean system. This proportion is higher than in 2014, when the number stood at 63 percent.

As for illegal drug use, which is strictly punished in South Korea, 42.9 percent of the accused members of US forces avoided indictment this year, up from 33.3 percent in 2014.

Rep. Park pointed to the Status of Forces Agreement between the US and South Korea as the main reason behind the leniency.

The agreement -- approved and enacted in 1967 and revised twice in 1991 and 2001 -- states that Korea recognizes that it is the primary responsibility of the military authorities of the US to maintain good order and discipline where people subject to US military laws are concerned, and will waive its primary right to exercise jurisdiction upon the request of the US, although it can choose not to.

He did not give details on how the US military dealt with those crimes it took under its jurisdiction, or what proportion of nonprosecutions were prosecuted by the US military.

“When such crime is committed by US soldiers, the US Army sends a request to South Korea’s Justice Ministry to give up the jurisdiction, and in most cases, we accept their request,” the five-term lawmaker explained.

“SOFA should be revised immediately to protect our jurisdiction rights and lives and property of our citizens.”

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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