South Korean police arrested a 24-year-old member of U.S. Forces Korea on Wednesday on charges of smuggling synthetic cannabis into the country, and 17 other soldiers are under investigation for being involved in the purchase and sale of the banned substance.
The Gyeonggi Pyeongtaek Police Station said the soldier is accused of illegally importing 350 milliliters of synthetic cannabis through military mail between February and May, and smoking, selling, or distributing the drug to U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) soldiers and others along with two civilian women, the Korean Times reported Wednesday.
Police said the soldier was assigned to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, about 38 miles south of Seoul. The smuggled drugs have been mostly sold to U.S. soldiers stationed in Pyeongtaek and at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, about 25 miles north of Seoul, through the two women, a Korean and Filipino national, and five others, the Korean Times reported. Police said the two women have been arrested on drug trafficking charges.
An additional 17 soldiers, from Camp Humphreys and Camp Casey, and five civilian accomplices were brought in for questioning, but the Army Times reported all the soldiers have since returned to their bases.
A statement from U.S. Forces Korea issued Wednesday does not mention the arrested soldier but does say it "is aware of the Korean National Police's investigation of 17 soldiers for alleged illegal drug behavior and misuse of the military mail system. ... USFK does not condone any behaviors among its personnel that violate South Korean laws, rules, or directives and supports this investigation."
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, synthetic cannabis is either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so it can be smoked or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices.
It is the latest run-in with U.S. military personnel and South Korean police since Army Pvt. 2nd Class Travis King, now being held in North Korea, served two months in a South Korean prison on an assault charge. King was scheduled to be sent home after his release July 10, but he escaped and slipped across the border to North Korea.
Michael Katz is a Newsmax reporter with more than 30 years of experience reporting and editing on news, culture, and politics.
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