U.S. military restricts servicemen in South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea - Amid growing anti-American sentiment, the U.S. military in South Korea has instructed soldiers not to go out at night and told them to travel in pairs and stay out of trouble, officials said Tuesday.

The restrictions, similar to those imposed on U.S. servicemen in Okinawa, Japan, stem from recent anti-U.S. demonstrations in Seoul and the stabbing death last month of an Army doctor, said Kim Yong-kyu, a U.S. command spokesman.

Some 37,000 American troops are stationed in South Korea.

The doctor, Maj. David Berry, was killed in broad daylight by a South Korean man with a record of mental illness. The military says the attack was unprovoked.

Thousands of South Koreans took to the streets Saturday after the U.S. military acknowledged it had dumped formaldehyde into Seoul's Han River, a major source of drinking water for Seoul's 12 million people.

The protesters lobbed toy rockets into the U.S. military compound and pelted a nearby building with red paint, demanding punishment for those responsible.

The military said the 20 gallons of formaldehyde was treated by the sewage system before it entered the river, and was therefore not harmful to the environment.

The South Korean media criticized the chemical dumping as ''disregarding the South Korean people.''

''Do you in the United States dump such poisonous chemicals into the Potomac River?'' asked a recent editorial in the Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

In response to the uproar, the U.S. command also extended patrols by its military police in major night spots in Seoul that are frequented by American soldiers.

Many shops and bars reported a sharp drop in business, with fewer American visitors.

''Sales have dropped as much as 30 percent,'' said Hahm Ji-won at Nashville Extension, a bar in Itaewon, a neighborhood near the army base.

The U.S. military imposed a late-night curfew and a drinking ban on all its service members in Okinawa earlier this month after several of them allegedly committed crimes that have enraged Japan.

The order seemed aimed at calming the community ahead of President Clinton's visit to the island for an international summit this weekend.

Most South Koreans support the stationing of U.S. troops in their country as a deterrent to military threats from communist North Korea. But many are worried about crimes and other controversies allegedly involving American soldiers.

Protests have been on the rise since early May, when a U.S. Air Force fighter jet dropped six bombs on the Koon-Ni Range near the west coast village of Mae Hyang, 50 miles southwest of Seoul.

Villagers say six people were slightly injured and walls were cracked and windows shattered by the impact.

Together with activist groups, the villages have been staging sometimes violent rallies, demanding the relocation of the range.

More than 200 activists have since been detained for violent protests.


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