South Korea’s inter-government task force to better deal with crimes by American soldiers will hold its first meeting this week, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.
The task force, consisting of senior officials from the foreign ministry, police, the defense ministry and the South Korea-U.S.
Combined Forces Command, was formed last week amid brewing public outrage after two United States soldiers were accused of raping teenage South Korean girls in separate cases in the past month.
The two incidents reignited calls to revise the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs the legal status of some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, to give South Korean police more legal jurisdiction to investigate sex crimes involving U.S. soldiers.
During the first meeting, scheduled for Thursday, officials “will assess what practical and realistic problems exist in the implementation of the current SOFA rules,” foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.
In addition, the government is considering holding a public debate with civic groups to address crimes involving U.S. soldiers, Cho said.
Critics said the long-standing SOFA, last amended in 2001, is unjust because it goes too far in protecting U.S. soldiers.
At present, South Korean police have the right to take custody of a U.S. service member only if the suspect is caught red handed in such heinous crimes as murder or rape.