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Bar owners say US Forces Korea police solicited bribes, sexual favors

Air Force removes member of Osan ‘town patrol’

By Franklin Fisher
March 30, 2005

Osan Air Base — Base officials here have reshuffled the Air Force police team that patrols the off-base bar district amid allegations some of its members shook down Korean bar owners for bribes and sexual favors, officials said.

The airmen raised the threat of having the bars put off-limits to U.S. troops, according to South Korean media reports and a civic group that mounted a protest rally outside the base Tuesday.

Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents are probing the allegations, officials said.

“The investigation is ongoing and may implicate several others,” stated a news release issued Tuesday by U.S. Forces Korea.

The shakedowns reportedly involved 51st Security Forces Squadron airmen assigned to the “town patrol” that patrols the bar district outside the Osan Air Base main gate.

The Air Force on March 2 announced that an “Airman” from the 51st Security Forces Squadron “was taken into custody for alleged unprofessional conduct while serving as a member of the Osan town patrol.”

Stars and Stripes on Tuesday requested, but did not receive, an interview with 51st Security Forces commander Lt. Col. Randall Richert or others in the line of authority over the squadron.

Without naming a suspect in the case, the USFK release Tuesday said the town patrol member taken into custody March 1 is currently in “confinement” at Camp Humphreys “awaiting charges.”

About 10 protesters staged a peaceful 30-minute rally across the street from the base main gate Tuesday. Some held a banner while speakers’ remarks blared from a sound truck. Scores of blue-clad South Korean riot police were on the scene.

After the demonstration, Kim Yong-han, who represented what he called the Task Force To Oppose The Expansion of the U.S. Bases in Pyongtaek, said bar owners had told him of occasions when town patrol members would enter a bar and pretend to notice a violation of some type, in some instances of health or fire safety codes. They then would mention that the ostensible violation was grounds for making the bar off-limits, Kim said.

Some owners, said Kim, would offer a bribe — at times in the form of sexual favors.

If town patrol members deem an establishment unsafe for U.S. military personnel or believe it is a venue for prostitution, human trafficking, underage drinking or other illicit activity, they can recommend that Osan Air Base authorities declare it off-limits to U.S. military personnel.

The South Korean newspaper Joong Ang Daily on Tuesday quoted one shop owner as saying: “If your club is tagged ‘off limits’ it’s like a death sentence. Most shops here are exclusively geared toward U.S. personnel. One month is enough to put a club out of business.”

Stars and Stripes

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