An American soldier in South Korea has been accused of being a member of a smuggling ring that stole three Humvees from a US base and tried to sell them. Six South Korean civilians have also been accused of involvement in the crime.
The soldier's full name has been withheld, but he is a 47-year-old Korean-American with the surname "Jeon." The six Koreans who have been accused include a civilian contractor who worked on the base, three junk dealers, a prop maker and a middleman. So far, they have not been detained or charged.
The crimes took place in June and September 2016. According to Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency detective Kim Dong-hwan, Jeon and the contractor allegedly camouflaged the vehicles as unused items. They told their colleagues on the base that the Humvees (disguised as other material) were being sent to the Defense Logistics Agency, but then they shipped them to the other members of the ring instead.
Kim said that the prop maker bought the Humvee for about $9,800, but the police later retrieved the vehicle. This is a fraction of a Humvee's market value, which is usually between $35,700-65,200, according to UPI.
The other two Humvees were to be smuggled out of the country and sold in Cambodia, Mongolia or Sri Lanka, but the police detained the other suspects before this could happen. They found the missing vehicles on one of the junk dealer's lots.
"[Jeon] insists that he was not trying to steal the vehicles with the rest of the guys," Kim told Stars and Stripes. "The Koreans kept denying what they did at first. But they've been saying lately that they attempted to sell the Humvees." Seoul police suspect the ring of receiving stolen goods, larceny and trespassing on military facilities.
US Forces Korea (USFK) declined to comment on this specific case as it is still under investigation. A spokesperson did say that USFK take "all allegations of misconduct or criminal activity very seriously."
Investigators from the US Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are assisting in the investigation, according to Seoul police. They are also investigating to see whether the ring stole any other military material from the base.
South Korea has the fourth highest deployment of US troops of any nation after Germany, Japan, and the United States itself. 28,500 American servicemen are deployed there, primarily Army and Air Force personnel.