Part 1: The Seoul Olympics, 25 years later
Part 2: The 1988 Olympics and Korean fears of AIDS
Part 3: Americans and bad first impressions
Part 4: Reptilian Style: The 'live-or-die general war' against Hollywood
Part 5: An attack in a boxing ring
Part 6: Media responses to the boxing ring incident
Part 7: No more lion: US swimmers' 'prank' becomes 'diplomatic incident'
Part 8: KAIST catches Big Ben
Part 9: Hankyoreh interviews Korean witness to theft by swimmers
Part 10: Stop me if you've heard this one: Four GIs head to Itaewon in a taxi...
On September 26, 1988, in an edition of the Donga Ilbo with no less than six articles reporting crimes by Americans or railing against American arrogance, the following article was published detailing an incident which took place in Itaewon on September 24, less than 20 hours after the swimmers had been caught by police after being attacked by a mob.
4 American soldiers carry out assault with a knifeHere's how the Korea Herald reported it on September 27:
When a taxi driver asked for the fare they hit him and ran off
Stabbed pursuing citizens saying "If you come close I'll kill you"
Police arrested three of them
At 8:30 in the evening on the 24th, on the street in front of Madonna Disco Club at 131 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, four American soldiers, including 8th Army Corporal Anthony Spence (20), failed to pay the taxi fare after being driven from Dongducheon Township in Gyeonggi-do by driver Oh Hui-sik in Seoul taxi number 8751, and fled, and when chased by Oh and other citizens they brandished a knife and used violence against them. Three of the four were caught by police.
According to driver Oh, at 7:20 pm that night they promised to pay him 15,000 won to drive them from the Yurim Hotel in Dongducheon Township to Itaewon, and in the car they drank two bottles of whiskey snorted a hallucigenic-looking powder up their noses and kept making a lot of noise.
After arriving in Itaewon at 8:20 and not paying the fare and getting out of the taxi, driver Oh protested and they swung a bag containing two whiskey bottles at him and hit him in the head and fled in the direction of Itaewon market.
Mr. Oh and citizens who saw the spectacle chased after them together, following about 30 meters behind, and in the market they kicked over and sent flying articles for sale in the street stalls, and one pulled out a 15cm jackknife he was carrying and threatened them, saying "If you come near me I'll kill you."
Because of this Mr. Oh and another citizen had their hand injured.
After inflicting violence upon Mr. Oh and citizens the American soldiers fled in the direction of the nearby US military base, and three of them of them were caught by three conscripted policement from Yongsan police station and around 20 citizens, and then were turned over to authorities from the US 8th Army.
Meanwhile, the three US soldiers arrested by police have been summoned to come in on the morning of the 26th to investigate the precise details of the case.
An AP article on the 26th describing the media fallout of the swimmer's theft incident mentioned that "Papers carried articles Monday playing up recent minor incidents, including some American soldiers refusing to pay a taxi driver."
It's interesting what's getting omitted in the different articles. Considering the aroused anti-US passions at the time and the fact that it's the Korean media on a "the nation has been insulted" and xenophobic high, I expect that there's some exaggeration (or even fabrication) regarding the story. But the AP article makes no mention of a knife or the drug allegations, while the Herald leaves out the pursuit of justice by
It's mentioned, of course, that the soldiers were turned over to USFK authorities after their arrests. Within weeks the prosecution would begin to deal with such crimes in a different manner, and calls for changes to SOFA - the first since the agreement was signed in 1966, I believe - would begin to be made in the media and by politicians.