By Mr. Kevin B Jackson (IMCOM)October 20, 2010
DONGDUCHEON, South Korea - U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud commander Col. Hank Dodge had a simple message for Korean Special Tourist Association bar and club owners here Oct. 14: prostitution, human trafficking and underage drinking are non-negotiable.
Dodge thanked them for welcoming Soldiers into their establishments but reminded them of the Defense Department's zero-tolerance policy against the vices. It was the first of his quarterly Korean Business Leaders Forum meetings since taking command in June.
"We would like to foster a mutually positive working relationship - a two-way discussion like we have here today where we can try to help one another to create a safe environment," he told the business owners from the KSTA's entertainment district in Bosang-dong, located across the street from the Camp Casey main gate.
Dongducheon is a city of 95,000 that is 30 miles north of Seoul and home to many 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers. Army officials in Warrior Country have worked closely with business owners in recent years to provide Soldiers here with a safe environment.
"Prostitution, human trafficking and underage issues are the same issues for the past five years," said Yu Hong-chun, president of the KSTA Dongducheon chapter, which regulates the clubs that solely serve U.S. servicemembers. "We continue to work with them."
Dodge told the business owners that he has an 18-year-old son who is attending a university, so he understands the difficulties they may face operating businesses frequented by young Soldiers, many of whom are away from the United States and their parents for the first time.
Problems in the clubs, according to Dodge, are exacerbated when inebriated patrons are packed into an establishment that exceeds its capacity. He said drunk and disorderly Soldiers are a mutual concern, but that business owners can help by enforcing the maximum capacity.
"We only stand to gain by working with you to provide a better environment," he told the owners during the 36-minute meeting.
He also said action will be taken if the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board finds that a club owner turns a blind eye to prostitution, human trafficking or underage drinking.
Even so, he said Army officials don't want to put an establishment off limits unless it's absolutely necessary.
"We don't get a whole lot of satisfaction by putting a place off limits to Soldiers, but there is no other way to send the message to those men and women that they are going to understand," Dodge said.
He also told the KSTA business owners that the challenges the Army faces in Dongducheon aren't limited to activities at their establishments. He said the Army is looking at other issues such as medical, dental and cell phone services.
Since command sponsorships began increasing in Warrior Country as part of the U.S. Forces Korea "tour normalization" effort in December 2008, more than 600 families have moved into this community that was historically home to single and unaccompanied 2nd Infantry Division Soldiers.
Dodge said the new families spend money in the community, but that he needs to ensure the off-post environment is safe for them.
"It's important now more than ever that we try to do our best to promote a peaceful and friendly relationship, and create an environment that is extra safe for Soldiers and now families that are living in Dongducheon," he said.