S. Korea Can Hold U.S. Servicemen Accused of Crimes Accord Meant to Ease Tension

Article excerpt

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has received the right to detain American servicemen suspected of rape and murder as part of a revised agreement governing the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed throughout the country.

The new accord, reached yesterday after 11 rounds of talks since 1995, resolves one of the most contentious disputes between the two allies.

Under the old Status of Forces Agreement, first signed in 1966 and revised in 1991, American troops accused of a crime were detained in U.S. military custody until convicted in the South Korean judicial system and all appeals were exhausted.

Calling it too lenient and an infringement upon its sovereignty, South Korea sought revisions to the agreement, which governs the legal treatment of U.S. troops stationed there since 1954 as protection against Communist North Korean aggression. Activists said the accord discriminated against South Korea compared to similar arrangements the United States has with Japan and Germany.

Under the revised treaty, U.S. soldiers accused of murder, rape, arson, drug trafficking and eight other serious crimes would be turned over to South Korea upon indictment. In murder or rape cases, South Korean police would have the right to arrest and detain U.S. military suspects.

South Korea, in return, promised to protect and strengthen suspects' rights to legal counsel and speedy trial. The new agreement also called for enhanced safeguards for accused U. …