Soldier pleads not guilty, apologizes for S. Korea subway incident

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  Passengers await a subway train in South Korea. Six U.S. soldiers were accused in February 2013 of sexually harassing a Korean woman after she complained about their rowdy behavior on a similar subway train, an incident that drew national attention in South Korea. (Screen grab from Channel A video)
From Stripes.com
Passengers await a subway train in South Korea. Six U.S. soldiers were accused in February 2013 of sexually harassing a Korean woman after she complained about their rowdy behavior on a similar subway train, an incident that drew national attention in South Korea. (Screen grab from Channel A video)

Soldier pleads not guilty, apologizes for S. Korea subway incident

by: Ashley Rowland and Yoo Kyong Chang | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: October 19, 2013

UIJEONGBU, South Korea — One of six soldiers accused of harassing a South Korean woman on a subway apologized in court Thursday for the incident as he appealed his fine to the court.

Pvt. Damian Roedl, 20, of the 2nd Infantry Division, told the Uijeongbu District Court he wanted to “just apologize for my comrades’ actions. It was very disrespectful and it was uncalled for, and I’m sorry for all this.”

Roedl was among a group of soldiers who railway police say were acting up on a Dongducheon-to-Incheon train the night of Feb. 2 — playing a “boom box” loudly while dancing and shouting — when a Korean woman in her early 20s asked them to quiet down.

The soldiers then verbally and physically harassed the woman while taking video and photos of her, police said, adding that one or more of them may have touched her breasts.

Others on the subway car called police. The soldiers got off at the Mangwolsa station and pulled the woman onto the train platform, according to reports. Three of the men were arrested there while the other three left before authorities arrived.

The incident received national media attention here. 2ID bolstered soldiers’ cultural awareness, and a U.S. military official apologized to Uijeongbu Mayor Ahn Byung Yong.

Korean authorities waived jurisdiction for two soldiers, and two others settled out of court, 2ID said.

Another soldier, Pfc. Arthur Goodman, 20, paid a fine of almost $1,000 on the same charge facing Roedl, according to the 2ID.

Roedl was fined the same amount by summary order for “insult/indecent act by compulsion/assault,” according to 2ID. However, he opted to contest the fine because he believes he is not guilty and the amount is too large.

CCTV footage aired in court Thursday showed the group of soldiers standing on the subway platform after the altercation. Roedl stood several feet away from the subway door while another soldier appeared to briefly step inside the subway door and push a South Korean man who was arguing with and waving at them.

The man, Lee Jeong-Seob, testified Thursday that he had been injured in the incident. After watching the footage, he said Roedl did not strike him and he did not remember who did.

The court will announce its verdict on Nov. 7.

rowland.ashley@stripes.com

chang.yookyong@stripes.com

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