Statistics on Crimes Committed by US Troops in South Korea

Korea International War Crimes Tribunal, June 23, 2001, New York
Report on US Crimes in Korea 1945-2001

Civil Network for a Peaceful Korea

Over 100,000 Cases of Crimes, Over 100,000 Victims

Crimes committed by US soldiers were found as early as when US troops were first stationed in south Korea. According to the south Korean government’s official statistics, 50,082 crimes were committed by US soldiers from 1967 to 1998 (including those by soldiers’ families), and 56,904 US soldiers were involved (including soldiers’ families) in these crimes. The statistics imply that the actual figure may be higher if take into account those cases not handled by the south Korean police. Based on the statistics, the total number of crimes committed by US soldiers since September 8, 1945 (when they were first stationed in Korea) is estimated to be around 100,000. Unfortunately the south Korean government does not have statistics on US soldiers’ crimes committed before 1967, because SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) went into effect in 1967, allowing the south Korean court jurisdiction over crimes committed by US soldiers with narrow and limited application.

So, from 1945 to 1967, the US had full authority in court. south Koreans were even subjected to American rulings (of course, in English language). And during 1945-1948, when the US military government took control over the south Korean government, a judge was an active US soldier, with no jury system although the court followed American court system. Many problems aroused including language barrier, lack of cultural understanding and even prejudice on the part of the judge, unfair practices on the part of interpreters.

Study by Ministry of Justice of south Korea shows that among the 39,452 cases (45,183 US soldiers involved) of crimes committed by US soldiers from 1967 to 1987, south Korea was able to exercise its jurisdiction only in 234 cases, punishing only 351 US soldiers. Among them, 84 US soldiers were convicted of rape and 89 US soldiers were convicted of murder and robbery. Taking into account the fact that rape cases were more common before 1967, and that many rape cases were intentionally hidden and forgotten, the actual number of rape cases committed by US soldiers will be much higher than what official figures suggest.

1980, the year of civilian uprising in Kwangju alone, over 1,679 crimes committed by US soldiers were reported.

Due to the military dictator, Chun Doo Hwan’s martial law at the time, south Korea lost its jurisdiction that year. Not even a single case was handled in south Korean court.

Countless cases of rape were committed by US soldiers, including a woman gang raped by 4 soldiers’ in March 1946, a 14-year-old schoolgirl raped in 1956, a daughter and a mother both raped in 1967, a woman raped by 8 soldiers in the mountains in 1971, a month pregnant teacher raped in 1986 by 5 soldiers in the middle of Team Spirit military exercise, a handicapped schoolgirl sexually harassed in 1996, and a 6-year-old girl sexually harassed in May 1997.

Gregory Henderson, who served at the US embassy in Seoul in the 1950s and 1960s, recalls in his thesis ‘politically dangerous factors in US troops exercising operation & control right in Korea’:

” … Every US soldier from officer down enjoys material indulgence in Korea. Material indulgence includes abundant supply of fresh bodies of young local women.”

Earnst W. Carston, a former chaplain in US military camp in Korea, also harshly criticized US soldiers in his report to the US government in October 1964: “90% of US soldiers in Korea lead immoral sex lives. On being stationed to their posts, a soldier indulges in illegal sex with prostitutes, and when returning to the US, he sells off the woman, her house, and furniture to the new arrival”.

, in its June 10th 1971 edition, quoted a high-ranking military officer as saying “around 2 million foreign soldiers stayed in south Korea since the Korean war, among which 70% were venereal diseases patients as well as drug addicts”.

Robert Oliver, an American adviser to former south Korean President Rhee Seong-man, once said that 2,000 US soldiers out of total 30,000 stationed in Korea were from poor class. Also, Kevin Heldman, an American freelancer writer, wrote on the Internet in September 1997 that US troops in Korea are potential criminals and losers had they stayed in the US society.

Although above comments seem to lay a blame on those less-educated soldiers from poor family background for the crimes, the crime report shows that it is the officers who are very often commit rape and robbery by faking marriages before secretly returning to the US. There is no official statistics on fake marriages, mainly because victims do not want it reported.

Long Over Stay of US Troops and Their Operation & Control Rights over south Korean military

The first 3-year history of US military government control in south Korea was not based on a mutual friendship between peoples of the two countries. Rather it was based on a cozy relationship between the two governments. Such circumstances have not changed much since then. For example, US military that withdrew after 3 years of government control in south Korea came back during the Korean war to ‘take away’ operation & control rights from the south Korean army on July 15th 1950. In October 1953, immediately after the war, the US introduced Korea-US Defense Alliance Treaty, which allowed long-term stay of the US troops in south Korea. This treaty effectively gave the US a virtual full control over the south Korea’s political, military, and economic power.

In the light of such lopsided treaty which practically handed over a nation’s sovereign rights and the eventual political, military and economical subjugation to US mighty power, it becomes easy to see why such US soldiers crimes are committed easily in south Korea.

No other place in the world, does the US soldiers enjoy such immunity over the crimes they perpetuate.

I t is reported that US troops stationed in Okinawa, Japan, called the local prostitutes ‘Yellow Stool’. It is not only humiliating to Japan, but also to Korea as well. Such word is a good indicator of how US soldiers look at the local people.

Even to these days, when they are subjected to south Korean police investigation, US soldiers frequently say “how dare you Koreans treat an American soldier like this’.

Their debased superiority often comes from the years long of propaganda from US and south Korean governments asserting that it is the US, liberated south Korea from the hands of communist north Korea and without them, north Korea will invade the south Korea right away.

Moreover, the unique military arrangement in which the visiting force, the US controls the operational command over the south Korean military and it’s own general serving as a Joint Chief of Staff of the combined army, only exacerbates the unfair situation.

Although many of the past US Secretaries of Defense have repeatedly stated that it is US’s own interest to have the soldiers stationed in south Korea, and that US troops will remain in south Korea even after the reunification of Korea, many US soldiers still believe that they are in south Korea to fight the cold war.

On sex slavery issue, a Dutch military court in 1946 convicted those who were responsible for rape against minority women. Also in 1995, when three US soldiers gang raped a schoolgirl in Okinawa, Japan, local residents demanded and received an official apology from US President Bill Clinton, US ambassador to Japan, and US military chief. All these are unimaginable in south Korea.

Such stark difference between situations in south Korea, Japan and the Netherlands illustrates international power structure among the nations.

Statistics from south Korean government shows visible drop in the number of crimes committed by US soldiers, from 1967 to 1991, 1,100 – 2,300 crimes were committed per year and from 1992, the number dropped to 700-800 cases per year.

Such improvement was possible because of high-profile murder case of Yoon Kum-i by US soldier Kenneth Markle in October 1992. The cold blooded torture/murder case brought public conscience to the “crimes committed by US troops”. The Movement to Eradicate Crimes Committed by US Soldiers was formed as a result.

However, the south Korean government still exercises very limited jurisdiction over such crimes.

In 1998, Korea handled only 3.9% of all crimes committed by US soldiers.(and 24.6% of crimes by soldiers’ families)


Published by Victor Vaughn

Anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist, National Secretary of the American Party of Labor (APL).

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