Saturday, July 01, 2006

The real Korean threat

Well, things are heating up in Korea. The response from the locals to a commander who's apparently trying to make a difference has gotten personal. About 300 merchants held a gathering to demand the Area III commander's resignation. Stripes covers it here. The Area III Commander met with local officials to map out the way ahead. Area III also amended their Web site to reflect the correct curfew hours (showing that people are checking out what we put on the web).

Hat tips to USFK forums, GI in Korea, and Lost Nomad for all this. GI thinks we're headed down the wrong road. Lost Nomad has some pics and a lot of comments on his entry.

Here's what I've cross-posted on their comments.

Personally, my hat's off to the folks in Area III for trying to make a difference and not just throwing their hands up in the air and saying, "Oh well, that's Korea for you."

Okay, all the "truth in advertising" information up front:
I'm an Army Lt. Col. who's getting ready to come back to Korea this month. I just left LAST summer after a year with 2ID as the Public Affairs Officer. I've got 20 years in including a few years as an enlisted guy...I'm what some people used to call a "mustang" (enlisted, then commissioned). I've never been to Humphreys, but I can't imagine it's too different than Casey. I've been to Yongsan several times (my family lived there while I was at Red Cloud), and I will live there this time.

I agree with some of the stuff so far and disagree with some of the other.

Everything that follows is completely my own opinion.

Agree: "biggest supporters....NOT" Only as long as we have money and are spending it in their bars. Korean business people are like business people around the world: they support themselves first and foremost. If our interests coincide, great ... if not, we're gonna' march because the Man is keeping us down.

Agree: Not much is going to change until local governments take actions that have a permanent and lasting effect on these businesses. Yes, we can put places permanently off limits, but it's very hard to keep the same business from opening in the same spot under a different name, with the cousin's name on the ownership papers. Put the building off limits you say? Then we have the exact opposite problem when a new and legitimate owner comes in.

The best idea I have heard here: Putting breathalyzers at the gate upon return. If you're not 21, you take the test. Of course, the MPs aren't going to be happy about the personnel requirements... maybe random checks are the answer. Who knows? But if we decide the problem is that underage servicemembers are drinking, our actions should be directed right at the servicemembers themselves.

Disagree: "this can't be about underage drinking". Yes, it can...and hopefully it has a chilling effect on drinking as a whole. Why? Drinking is the main contributor in the vast majority of sexual assaults no matter whether men or women are the victim.

"Why can Joe defend his country at 18 but can't have a nice quite drink at 20?" Because Joe doesn't have a nice, quiet drink, that's why. Joe gets shitfaced and has his way with Susan, who's 19 and shitfaced as well. Then Susan wakes up and realizes that Joe promised to watch her back and make sure she got home, and then turned into a complete jackass.

Yeah, the fact is that we'd love to treat everyone over the age of 17 like a real adult. Unfortunately, they don't act like it. Yes, it's a few that ruin it for the many, but if I'm in charge of Soldiers, I'm not going out of my way to risk a rape or sexual assault just because "it's only a few soldiers out of a hundred".

Try explaining that to Susan's mom. "Well, ma'am, I could have tried to do something about it. Yes ma'am, I understand that I'm a leader, but you have to understand that your daughter's technically an adult. She just made bad choices is all."

Still, maybe the breathalyzer at the gate's the way to go.

Disagree: We have no right to tell Korean businesses what to do. Sorry, this argument is a complete red herring to draw off attention from the real issue. This isn't about businesses, this is about KSTA membership. Remember, KSTA membership is voluntary ... and includes TAX BENEFITS. The downside is that you agree to do certain things you normally wouldn't. KSTA membership is why you don't see Koreans in those same bars. Any bar at any time can decide that they don't want to be a member of KSTA and they don't have to abide by the rules. I wonder why they don't do that...hmmmm??

(Note: this is why it's absolutely critical for commands AND locals to work together to sort this kind of stuff out.)

This is also why many other hotels, bars, etc. aren't "off limits". They aren't KSTA members to begin with. So yes, GIs can go there and drink instead. So why don't they?

1- generally farther than Itaewon (or name your ville).
2- generally nicer places that won't tolerate as much crap.
3- no military police to pull your ass out of the fire when they decide they've had enough of your crap.
4- fewer people that speak English maybe? I don't know about this one.

Anyway, that's probably enough for now. Attack the ideas and I'm happy to respond. Attack the person and don't be surprised when you're ignored. I'd be happy to hear any other great ideas about actually solving the problem.

We'll see what happens.


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