KOREA - Korea Customs Service said Wednesday that an increasing number of Korea-based US troops were found to have smuggled drugs into the country over the years.
Most of the drugs such as marijuana were hidden in soldiers' personal items and smuggled into Korea via a military mail terminal at Incheon International Airport.
The KCS used sniffer dogs and X-ray equipment to find that American troops attempted to bring in illegal drugs by hiding them in boots, peanut butter jars and audio boxes via postal mail.
Customs officials confiscated 1,147 grams of smuggled weed in the first nine months of this year at the airport's military mail terminal.
In January, its K9 sniffers detected mail containing more than 900 grams of marijuana hidden inside coffee bags, and more than 200 grams of such drugs in female boots in April, the KCS noted.
Drug smuggling has been increasing since 2010 when Korean customs officials detected 30 grams. They found 374 grams in 2011 and more than 2,900 grams in 2012 at the airport terminal.
The customs agency said it seemed American soldiers are taking advantage of Korea's weak inspection system at the airport terminal, which falls under the jurisdiction legally set by the US-South Korea Status of Forces Agreement.
This means that all Korean customs officials can do is notify the US Forces in Korea under the mutual defence treaty after detecting such criminal activity by American soldiers with a low chance of prosecuting them in a court of law. The SOFA has been socially criticised for being unfair as it allows alleged US troops to be dishonorably discharged and repatriated to their homeland where they can walk free without a ruling by a Korean court.
The KCS also noted that there are only about eight employees who can contribute three hours a day for inspection at the airport terminal.
However, it said that the US Forces are being cooperative by taking "strong measures" against drug smuggling as the criminal activity has been increasing especially since last year.