According to official statistics recorded by the government, the activities of American soldiers between 1967 and 1998 included over 39,452 overt criminal offenses by 45,183 soldiers in the process of supposedly “protecting the South Koreans."1) In other words, during this period, American soldiers averaged two crimes a day. Crimes such as rape, burglary, and physical abuse committed by GIs were all common staples of the military towns. In the name of necessity, the U.S. promoted a policy, which directly violated the human rights of the Korean people by refusing to punish or restrict GIs for their crimes.
In 1950, with the start of the Korean War, and direct involvement by the U.S soldiers, the U.S. established a series of treaties with South Korea. These treaties were unequal and bestowed the U.S. with the authority to extradite U.S. military personnel who committed crimes against Korean citizens. Therefore, criminal acts instigated by GIs were most often unresolved and the criminals were left unpunished. In 1953, the U.S. instituted the Mutual Defense Treaty, which provided provisions for the U.S. to remain in Korea after the Korean War ended and in 1967, the Status of Forces Agreement was enacted. On the surface, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) offered compromises and reforms to previous treaties; nevertheless, SOFA allows the U.S. to retain jurisdiction in most criminal cases involving American soldiers. The main area of dispute regarding jurisdiction of criminal acts by GIs is section 22 of the SOFA agreement.2) Although the United States military has committed 39,452 crimes (45,183 GIs) between 1967 and 1987, only 234 of these cases were tried in Korea.3) Between 1985 and 1990, Korean jurisdiction of cases regarding U.S. military amounted to less than one percent and according to more recent data in 1998, Korean jurisdiction of GIs criminal offenses amounted to only 3.9 percent. In 1991, although the SOFA was revised, statistics prove the unwillingness for the U.S. to take substantial action towards correcting the unequal relationship between Korea and the U.S.4)
Consequently, despite the fact that the U.S. committed thousands of criminal acts while stationed in Korea due to the unfair SOFA agreement and the arrogance of the U.S. military, only a miniscule percentage of these criminals have been indicted. In view of this fact, it is difficult to measure the full extent of American military’s affects upon South Korea. Since neither the U.S. nor Korean governments is committed to punishing the GIs for crimes, such as burglary, physical abuse, or sexual crimes, such as rape and molestation, violators are most often set free without punishment. Of course this vicious cycle must be altered, but the question is, Where shall we start?
In order to accurately gage the negative affects of the U.S. military upon Korean society, instead of basing research upon impersonal statistics concerning U.S. military crimes and the texts of various international treaties, one must focus upon the human rights abuses in the military towns. In South Korea there are currently 37,000 U.S. military personnel that conduct most of their business within the military installations or the military towns. The South Koreans who most frequently interact with the American military are the prostitutes in these areas. Consequently, these women bare the brunt of American military human rights abuses. Ignoring the existence the injustices these women face on an everyday basis will inevitably result in the continuation of these violations.
The majority of crimes committed by the American military in Korea are visible only from the vantage point of everyday life in the military towns. Hence, the social deterioration caused by the U.S. forces in the military towns, such as; GIs who refuse to use contraception and thereby promote the spread of STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), GIs who promise to marry these women and leave without notice, and GIs who physically and sexually abuse these women, must be recognized and thoroughly analyzed. In addition, future analysis of the military towns must account for the U.S. militaries manipulation of the power imbalance, which in turn stimulates social ills such as extreme poverty, rampant spread of sexual diseases, and difficulties faced by Amerasian children.