Friday, March 16, 2012

Gyeonggi Provincial Council: The hits keep coming

As reported at the Marmot's Hole Monday, the Hankyoreh published an article about the Gyeonggi Provincial Council's proposal for US soldiers in Gyeonggi-do:
"Sex education for all US soldiers in Korea"

USFK accepts 'Gyeonggi Provincial Council's proposal'... At present only new recruits [receive] education

The Gyeonggi Provincial Council has urged the government to revise the unequal Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to prevent harm caused by sex crimes committed by US soldiers, and proposed implementing education to improve sex awareness for US soldiers stationed in Gyeonggi-do. The US military will accept this proposal, and USFK's sex crime prevention program will soon be extended to all soldiers. The education to improve sex awareness is a program to teach the differences between and characteristics of men and women and prevent things like prostitution and sexual assault.

On the 8th it was announced that on the 6th, the Gyeonggi Provincial Council's women and family lifelong education committee had approved a 'proposition to revise the unequal Status of Forces Agreement.' The committee plans to pass the proposition on the 16th.

The Provincial Council's revision of the SOFA suggests to the government that the ROK be guaranteed the right to exercise primary jursidiction and be able to unconditionally arrest, detain, and transfer US soldiers suspected of crime.

Under the Status of Forces Agreement, US soldiers suspected of a crime who are not caught in the act must be indicted by the prosecution before they are transferred to Korean investigators. Last September, during the incident in Dongducheon where a U.S. 2nd Infantry Division soldier raped a Korean student (who was then 16), there was controversy over the fact that the US soldier who confessed to police had to be booked without detention and returned to his base according to SOFA regulations.

Gyeonggi Provincial Council Rep. Kim Yu-im, (Democratic United Party) the spokesperson who oversaw the proposal, gave as the reason for it, "Without a revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, which violates the Republic of Korea's jurisdiction over the investigation and judicial process, the eradication of crime by US soldiers and the safety of citizens cannot be guaranteed." Together with the Provincial Council they proposed to establish measures to protect victims such as implementing a help desk for sex crime incidents by US soldiers and placing a public servant to oversee it, setting up a shelter institution for victims, and running a sex education program for US troops stationed in Gyeonggi-do.

The Gyeonggi-do military cooperation office reported that, "We are discussing having a program for all US soldiers to improve sexual awareness and the realities of sexual violence with the US 2nd Infantry Division." "USFK is also sympathetic to the need for such education." Since 2006 there have been an average of 260 crimes per year by USFK members and out of 1463 US soldiers who have committed crimes in the last 6 years, only 2 have been imprisoned.
This article cribbed a great deal from a Gyeonggi Ilbo article on the same topic from March 5 titled "Eradicate USFK sex crimes," which opened with this:
The Gyeonggi Provincial Council is tabling a motion urging a revision of the unequal Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to eradicate sex crimes by US soldiers against Gyeonggi area women.
It said they were planning to introduce it at a provisional session of the assembly which opened on the 6th. It also said that since 2006 there have been an average of 260 crimes per year by USFK members, and added that last year it increased to one crime per day, but (shockingly!) didn't provide any figure to support this.

For one thing, the idea that only 2 US soldiers have been imprisoned in the last 6 years is pretty ridiculous. As well, according to GI Korea, "All US service members routinely go through sexual assault and sexual harassment training to the point of it being repetitive if anything." A comment at his site by "2ID PAO" (2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Officer, though I have no idea if the commenter actually holds such a position) stated that
There has been no agreement with Gyeonggi Province to teach sexual harassment and assault prevention training. Second Infantry Division Soldiers receive extensive training when they arrive in Korea and refresher training every quarter thereafter. In addition, Hankyoreh’s final claim that only two USFK Soldiers have been detained by the KNP in the last six years is a complete fabrication and not even remotely close to an accurate statement.
GI Korea posts USFK court martial and Korean court results every month, and the fact that only two GIs were prosecuted for sex crimes by Korean courts this year (in April and November) would suggest that the perceived need by the Gyeonggi Provincial Assembly for such sex education, along with setting up a help desk for USFK sex crime incidents and shelters for victims, is a bit overwrought (the phone at the help desk will be ringing off the hook!).

Keep in mind this is the same Gyeonggi-do Provincial Council that massively and unilaterally cut the budget for foreign teachers in the GEPIK program threatening to leave hundreds without pay, which is also the same council that passed a bill requiring drug tests for foreign instructors in hagwons and fines for hagwon owners who did not oversee this, even though that part of the bill technically had no legal basis. Is anyone really surprised that this Democratic United Party-controlled council now wants the other group in the province perceived to be white, American males to undergo training to boost their gender awareness?

I guess you can applaud their consistency.

Not that there's anything wrong with calling for a revision to SOFA - it is part of a long tradition. There may be changes to the SOFA coming, but then that was also reported by the Hankyoreh, so maybe a grain of salt is needed.

(Perhaps also worth noting is that a city in Gyeonggi-do has been the site of sex crime prevention training for foreign teachers.)


Roboseyo said...

How very... provincial... of the provincial council.

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