June 18 (UPI) — The commander of U.S. Forces Korea lifted a 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for military personnel that will be re-evaluated in 90 days.
Starting Monday, Gen. Robert B. “Abe” Abrams, who took command of United States Forces Korea in November, initiated a 90-day suspension of the USFK-wide curfew for 28,500 service members, including the Air Force, Army, Marines Navy and Special Operations. It was instituted after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Abrams will determine whether to continue the curfew suspension evaluation period, or to maintain or rescind the curfew, basing the decision on service members’ behavior, morale and readiness factors.
“South Korea is an assignment of choice with countless regional and cultural opportunities for assigned personnel,” said Col. Jonathan H. Doyle, USFK provost marshal. “The intent of the curfew suspension is to provide USFK personnel greater access to all Korea has to offer. Our professional service members will act in accordance with our standards of conduct and Korean laws at all times.”
Former USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp rescinded the curfew in July 2010 but it was brought back after two high-profile rape cases involving American soldiers.
The curfew was extended indefinitely in its recent form in January 2012.
“We are a professional military charged with the defense of the Korean Peninsula; military readiness remains a top priority for the command,” Doyle said.
The curfew required that all service members be on base or ships, in their residences or in hotel rooms during specified hours, with exemptions for those attached to the U.S. Embassy or the Joint U.S. Military Affairs Group-Korea.
“We looked at it and discipline issues are at a steady state,” Doyle told Stars and Stripes. “We asked ‘is it really a problem between those hours?’ And the answer was no.”
The curfew prevented military personnel from engaging in late-night activities.
“For these young folks, they’re ready to go to clubs and all of that,” Lt. Col. Junel Jeffrey, a 2nd Infantry Division public affairs officer at Camp Humphreys told Military Times. “I’m not into clubs, but I will do some shopping. I’m really excited about that.”
Camp Humphreys, which has about 10,000 soldiers, is about 40 miles south of Seoul.
Sgt. Akeyla Richardson, who is assigned to the 563rd Medical Logistics Company, said: “I actually didn’t believe it. When I first heard, I thought there is no way, people out here are too crazy. Now that it has finally happened, I just hope no one messes it up for the rest of us.”
In 2011, two soldiers — one 21 and another 18 — were accused of raping local women and the curfew was put in place.
In Okinawa, Japan, in 2017, a one-month midnight-to-5-a.m. curfew and an alcohol restriction were put in place after a fatal vehicle accident there. The Marine was operating a government vehicle while off-duty and reportedly had a blood-alcohol content of 0.09 — three times Japan’s legal limit. The changes reverted to 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for lower enlisted troops.
Temporary restrictions were instituted previously. A midnight ban was in place in 2016 after the arrest of an ex-Marine suspected of killing a Japanese woman. In 2013, U.S. troops throughout Japan were placed under a night-time curfew after two sailors pleaded guilty to the rape of a Japanese woman.