Following a six month suspension, commander of U.S. Forces Korea Gen. Robert Abrams has permanently ended the 1-5 a.m. curfew that existed for American servicemembers in South Korea.
On June 17th, Abrams implemented a three month trial suspension period, which was renewed on September 17th. Following a consultation with fellow commanders and unit leaders, Abrams announced the end of the curfew policy.
“The 180 day curfew suspension enabled leaders at all levels of the chain of command to recommend keeping the curfew, continuing the suspension, or ending the curfew. All recommended its termination,” Abrams stated in a news release.
The trial period was used to gain information on the impact on “behavior, morale, readiness factors and the capability for USFK Service Members to maintain good order and discipline, at all times and under all conditions.”
Shortly after 9/11, the curfew was imposed, which required that troops be in their bases, home residences, or hotel rooms during the four hours in the early morning. It applied to roughly 28,500 American troops, including special forces operators. Those serving with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul as well as the Joint U.S. Military Affairs Group-Korea were exempted from the curfew.
The policy has long been unpopular among U.S. troops serving in the divided peninsula.
Though some incidents did occur during the curfew suspension period, they mainly involved fistfights between soldiers. In one case in July, a soldier allegedly tried to steal a taxi and assaulted a Korean National Police officer. Incidents in South Korea do gain more notability in part because troops are turned over to their commanders whereas those apprehended in the U.S. are usually detained by local authorities, such as police departments.
This was not the first curfew suspension. Back in 2010, then-USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp briefly suspended the then-existing curfew and stated that “I believe that we can trust our service members to do the right thing.” A few months later, however, the curfew was reinstated following two high-profile rapes that involved U.S. military personnel.
In his statement, Abrams reiterated “We have a solemn responsibility to keep readiness at its highest levels with a “Fight Tonight” posture, approach and mentality. Our capability and capacity to remain ready at all times is non-negotiable.”