Since the beginning of the US-occupation of south Korea, US soldiers have enjoyed privileges that ordinary south Koreans never had. From the end of World War II in 1945 until 1967, United States had unlimited power over many parts of the south Korean society and the judicial system were no exception. Up until 1967, south Koreans were subjected to American rulings in court. Even the language being used in court was English. 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. An estimated 100,000+ crimes have been committed by U soldiers in south Korea since 1945, but prior to the unilaterally introduction of Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in south Korea, crimes committed by the US occupational forces weren’t recorded. Between 1967 to 1998, 50,082 crimes were committed by US soldiers, where 56,904 US soldiers where involved, including families of the soldiers.
Prior to 1967, crimes such as rape were more common, and crimes committed by US soldiers were never recorded before that. In the 20 years following the introduction of SOFA, 39,452 cases, involving 45,183 US soldiers, south Korea was only able to exercise its jurisdiction in 234 cases, and only 351 US soldiers were punished. An actual occupational force are full control of south Korea, and during this period only of 0.7% the criminals were ever to be convicted in a south Korean court. One exception is when Kevin Lee Flippin was sentenced to ten years after raping a 17 year-old girl after he broke into her apartment and repeatedly raped the girl for four hours, only to stop to beat her head and burn her breasts using a lighter. Before he left he stole her wallet containing nothing more than 5000 won (about four US dollars).
During periods of martial law, which have happened at times through the history of south Korea, the US also gains full authority over the judicial system. In 1980, the year of Kwangju popular uprising alone, over 1,679 crimes committed by US soldiers were reported and due to the fascist dictator, Chun Doo Hwan’s martial law at the time, south Korea lost its jurisdiction that year and was transferred over to the US. Not even a single case was handled in south Korean court! Pretty much immediately after the Korean War in 1953, the US introduced the South Korea-US Defense Alliance Treaty, which allowed long-term stay of the US troops in south Korea. This treaty effectively gave the US full control over south Korea’s political, military, and economic power. It is not only a thing of the past but even until this day when US soldiers are investigated by south Korean police, soldiers frequently say “how dare you Koreans treat an American soldier like this’.
In general, US soldiers have better conditions while in prison than south Korean inmates. The few times that US soldiers have to serve time in prison in south Korea, they have their own prison department, where they get their own food from the US military in south Korea so they can eat what they want and don’t have to eat south Korean food. Compared to south Korean inmates who must share cells, the US soldiers have their own ones, and they don’t have to participate and perform hard labour, something that the south Korean inmates have to while they are serving their sentences.
Even though the US and South Korea claims that they are not at war with one another, US soldiers are committing atrocities such as rape and murder against civilians, something that is more common during war to humiliate the enemy. There are countless cases of rapes committed by US soldiers against women in south Korea. Former Foreign Service Officer Gregory Henderson, who among other countries also were posted in south Korea in the 1950’s and ´60’s meant that the ‘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. It is the very same mentality established by the Japanese imperialists during the occupation of Southeast Asia, where they had “comfort women” – women who were forced into sex slavery. Once the Japanese imperialists were defeated in Southeast Asia, the United States took on its role and established US-loyal fascist puppets in several countries in the region, and South Korea wasn’t an exception.
The Oregan-born Robert T. Oliver who became an advisor in 1949 to the fascist dictator of south Korea, Syngman Rhee, and with time also a very close friend of Syngman Rhee, have tried to blame the high rate of violent crimes among US soldiers in south Korea on their class background, as 2000 of the 30,000 US soldiers in south Korea were from working class families. Journalist Kevin Heldman backed up that thesis by claiming that the troops were “potential criminals and losers” if they stayed in the United States. It is not only extremely offensive against working class people of the United States to claim that they are responsible for the high crime rate among US soldiers in Korea, but it’s also false, as the report shows that it’s officers (officers traditionally comes from wealthier families) who are overrepresented when it comes to crimes such as rape and robberies. It is not uncommon that the working class of the US enlist in the army, risking their lives for a potential better future for themselves. The army offer jobs to those whose options are limited, including free health care, retirement pay and subsidized food, housing and education. The US imperialists knows that they can get away with everything, and that is why these atrocities in the occupied south Korea will never end for as long as the United States remains in Korea.