Two men caught selling passes to U.S. Army base

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Two men caught selling passes to U.S. Army base

Police said yesterday it caught two brokers who illegally issued passes to the U.S. Army’s military base to unauthorized people.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, it has booked two brokers - a former Korean military officer and a former employee of the U.S. army - without detention for issuing 81 illegal passes over the last six years.

The police said that the officer surnamed Lee, 55, who is a retired lieutenant colonel from the Korean military, allegedly pocketed more than 50 million won ($43,100) from 69 people in exchange for passes to the U.S. Army’s Yongsan base in central Seoul until last June.

The suspect testified during questioning by police that he was paid from 200,000 won to 3.3 million won per pass, depending on his relationship with the buyer.

The other suspect, also surnamed Lee, 54, separately issued a dozen passes to his acquaintances in order to strengthen his personal relationships with privileged people and his business clients.

The retired military officer cooperated with one Korean employee who was working on the U.S. military base in Yongsan until last October, getting him to fabricate necessary documents that were needed to make the passes. The police said it is trying to track down the veteran’s accomplice.

The police said that the veteran is currently working as an international trader. He testified during questioning that he issued the passes illegally in order to attract more investors to his business. He told the police that such passes are sometimes seen as a privilege by the Korean public because only a limited number or qualified people are able to possess them.

“So many Koreans driving luxury imported sedans, who looked like they weren’t related to the U.S. military, have visited the camp in the last few years,” a 23-year-old Katusa, or Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army, surnamed Park told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“They brought groups of Koreans to the Dragon Hill Lodge on the base. They looked like they were proud to have the pass.”

Passes to U.S. army bases are reserved for employees of relevant organizations and those engaged in activities to improve relations between U.S. and Korea.

By Lee Ji-sang, Kwon Sang-soo []
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