South Korean police are investigating more than a dozen U.S. soldiers stationed at two military bases in the country for allegedly using and distributing synthetic marijuana.
Korean detectives announced Wednesday that they raided the homes of 17 troops based at Camp Humphreys and Camp Casey. The soldiers and five civilian accomplices were brought in for questioning, but all the soldiers have since returned to their respective bases.
The probe is the latest high-profile run-in between American military personnel and local police. Private 2nd Class Travis King, an Army soldier now being held in North Korea, had served two months in a South Korean prison for assault. King was slated to be sent home after his release on July 10, but he escaped his escorts and slipped across the border.
In this latest incident, Korean authorities have accused the 22-person cohort of smuggling synthetic marijuana — an illegal substance in South Korea — into the country through the military mail system and plotting to distribute it to military personnel. Officials confiscated 2.7 ounces of the drug, $12,850 in cash, 145.4 ounces of mixing liquid, and 27 electronic cigarettes during their search, according to police reports.
Korean police said in a press release that they’re collaborating with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division on the case. U.S. Forces Korea, the command overseeing U.S. military assets in the country, acknowledged the investigation, saying in a statement that it “does not condone any behaviors among its personnel that violate South Korean laws, rules or directives and supports this investigation.”
“We expect all service members, family members, civilians, contractors, sponsored guests, and other affiliated individuals to conduct themselves appropriately, both on and off duty, and hold a deep respect for the Korean people, their culture, laws, and regulations,” it added. CNN was the first international news outlet to report the story.
Camps Humphreys and Casey house tens of thousands of soldiers and support staff between them. Camp Humphreys is the Army’s largest garrison in Asia. Its 8,100-foot airfield is the branch’s busiest on the continent.
South Korean authorities have long suspected American military installations of serving as gateways for illicit substances entering the country, the New York Times reported.
Jaime Moore-Carrillo is an editorial fellow for Military Times and Defense News. A Boston native, Jaime graduated with degrees in international affairs, history, and Arabic from Georgetown University, where he served as a senior editor for the school's student-run paper, The Hoya.