The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

Seoul seeks greater authority on crimes by U.S. servicemen

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Published : Oct. 10, 2011 - 17:34

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South Korea and the U.S. will discuss ways to strengthen Seoul’s preliminary investigation authority to better deal with cases involving U.S. military personnel during their meeting next month, a Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

The move comes as the public anger here has been rising in the wake of a recent string of sex crimes committed by U.S. soldiers.

Next month, the two sides are considering holding a Criminal Jurisdiction Subcommittee session under the Joint Committee of the Status of Forces Agreement, which governs the legal status of 28,500 U.S. military personnel stationed here.

“Following the recent spate of incidents, we are reviewing whether there are inconveniences the Korean police and prosecution have suffered in the process of investigating cases involving U.S. troops and indicting them,” the official said, declining to be named.

“Including the possibility of us revising the SOFA, we will discuss overall issues to enhance (our investigative authority).”

The recent sex crime cases have reignited calls for a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement to allow Korean authorities to promptly probe cases involving U.S. troops from the initial investigation phase.

The bone of contention in the agreement is a clause in Article 22 of the SOFA, which says that if a U.S. soldier is suspected of a crime, including murder or rape, Korean police can take them into custody only if they are caught red-handed.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)