POSTED: 11:47 a.m. HST, Oct 08, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 11:52 a.m. HST, Oct 08, 2011
SEOUL, South Korea >> Two U.S. soldiers have been accused of raping teenage girls in South Korea in separate incidents, prompting U.S. military officials to apologize Saturday as they tried to ease growing public anger.
Army Brig. Gen. David Conboy, who supervises the U.S. garrison in Seoul, issued a statement apologizing for "pain" caused by allegations that a U.S. soldier raped a girl in her rented room in Seoul on Sept. 17. That solider — a private in his early 20s — is being questioned by police but has not been arrested.
Another U.S. private has been arrested on suspicion of raping a teenage girl on Sept. 24 in a city north of Seoul.
The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, apologized Friday for what he called a "tragic and inexcusable rape that took place about a week ago." It was not clear which of the two incidents he was referring to.
The alleged assaults have prompted small protests near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, while the Internet has been abuzz with Koreans expressing their anger. On Saturday, a minor labor party called for restricting the movement of American soldiers outside their bases.
The U.S. has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Gen. James Thurman, America's top commander in South Korea, said Friday that he has instated a curfew following "the incidents over the last several months." He did not clarify his comments, but said the curfew would last 30 days.
U.S. officials are wary of an anti-American sentiment that could be rekindled in countries where their troops are stationed.
In 2002, the acquittals of two American soldiers whose armored vehicle ran over and killed two South Korean schoolgirls during training prompted nationwide protests against the U.S. military presence in the country.
In 1995, the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl by U.S. service members in Okinawa sparked one of the biggest anti-U.S. protests in Japan. About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan in a post-World War II security pact.