Police: U.S. soldier sets fire to Hooker Hill bar

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Police: U.S. soldier sets fire to Hooker Hill bar

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Yongsan Police yesterday confirmed that the suspected arsonist who set fire to a building in Itaewon on Tuesday was a U.S. soldier.

Police said that a 21-year-old U.S. Army private who had been drinking at Tiger Tavern on Itaewon’s Hooker Hill, located on the ground floor, committed the arson at around 2:30 a.m. after the establishment’s owner asked him to leave because it was late.

The private allegedly used a candle to set alight a cot that was located in a room next to the bar’s bathroom, according to Yongsan Fire Station.

He then fled the scene, police said.

The fire was put out in 30 minutes with no reports of injuries. The damage has been estimated at 25 million won.

Police were able to confirm the identity of the suspect through witnesses’ testimony and images captured from a CCTV camera in the area.

After narrowing down the suspect to 20 men who fit the physical description of a man in his early 20s with a boyish face, around 170 centimeters tall and with a lean build, police were able to apprehend the suspect with the cooperation of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID).

Following the U.S.-ROK Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), police summoned the U.S. private on Tuesday at 9 p.m. to confirm his identity and summoned him again for a second round of questioning yesterday.

Under SOFA regulations, Korean police are prohibited from detaining U.S. soldiers who are suspected of a crime before they are indicted by prosecutors.

The U.S. soldier has not been formally arrested.

The arson came after two cases of sexual assault of young Korean women by U.S. soldiers in recent months. Early this month, a U.S. soldier in one of the cases was sentenced to 10 years in prison.


By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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