The Korea Herald


Effectiveness of USFK’s curfew questioned


Published : Oct. 17, 2011 - 20:52

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Some find loopholes by enjoying nightlife in areas outside of MP patrol

U.S. military personnel are getting around the recently reinstated curfew by deserting Itaewon at the weekend for areas such as Hongdae, Sinchon and Apgujeong, according to bar and restaurant owners.

“The soldiers who used to party in Itaewon are now slowly migrating to areas like Hongdae and Apgujeong,” said one club owner in Itaewon as quoted by news reports.

Most people in Itaewon The Korea Herald spoke to agreed the neighborhood has gotten quieter.

“There is definitely a drastic change since the curfew started, it became a lot more quiet and when soldiers do come out to drink, they get nervous near curfew time and then they go home,” said Kim, a bartender at another establishment in Itaewon.

“The neighborhood definitely got quieter from before,” said the owner of another bar popular with the U.S. military crowd. 
United States Forces Korea military police patrol in Itaewon, Seoul, during curfew hours to look for stray soldiers. (Yonhap News) United States Forces Korea military police patrol in Itaewon, Seoul, during curfew hours to look for stray soldiers. (Yonhap News)

But some say some soldiers who see the curfew as a nuisance are simply disregarding it.

“I have a couple of friends who are soldiers and they believe that as long as they don’t get seen walking in the streets, they think it’s ok,” said Kim, who refused to disclose her full name.

“I have seen soldiers hide in bathrooms or go into 24-hour coffee shops on the strip to hide,” she added.

The off-installation curfew is in effect between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. from Monday through Friday, and between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The curfew was reinstated after a string of violent crimes committed by U.S. soldiers including the high-profile rape of an 18-year-old Korean woman in her home in Dongducheon last month.

Some soldiers have found an obvious loophole by simply enjoying the nightlife in other Seoul districts.

“I’ve seen a lot of fights out here in Hongdae between foreigners who look like soldiers but I have never seen a single MP patrol the area,” said Lee, a bartender in Hongdae who refused to disclose his full name.

“Soldiers have been coming into my establishment all the time, even after hours,” said one bar owner in Sinchon, who declined to be named.

And as soldiers start to migrate to areas outside of the MP’s patrol, the curfew’s effectiveness in preventing further crimes will be tested.

The recent curfew is but the latest in a long line reinstated measures after crimes by U.S. soldiers.

“Given the incidents that have occurred over the last several months, I’m reinstating the curfew to assess current conditions, mission requirements and potential force protection concerns,” said USFK General James Thurman, right before the reinstatement.

The curfew had been lifted last year, after being in place for nine years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

By Robert Lee (