SK Construction Raided By South Korean Authorities for Corruption Involving Expansion of US Military Base

The corruption probes and investigations surrounding the expansion of the US military base Camp Humphreys in South Korea continues:

Picture of construction during the Camp Humphreys expansion project.

South Korean prosecutors have raided the offices of one of the nation’s largest conglomerates amid allegations it offered multimillion-dollar kickbacks to the US Army in exchange for construction contracts.

Dozens of investigators were dispatched to the headquarters of SK Engineering and Construction in downtown Seoul on Friday to confiscate computer hard disks, documents and other material related to construction projects at a new US army base in South Korea’s Pyeongtaek county.

The prosecutors are investigating allegations that the company — an affiliate of the nation’s third-largest conglomerate, SK — gave almost $3m to a US army officer in 2010 to steer a $420m dollar construction contract in its favour.

The officer, Duane Nishiie of the US Army Engineers Corp, was indicted in September in Hawaii on charges including bribery, wire fraud and money laundering related to the case. Lee Seung-ju, a former officer in the procurement department of Seoul’s defence ministry, was indicted on the same charges.

SK Engineering and Construction declined to comment. US Forces Korea was not immediately available to comment.

“The raid was needed to look into the bribery claims linked to a US military contract,” the prosecutor in charge of the investigation told the Financial Times.   [The Financial Times]

You can read the rest at the link.

Woman Arrested for Defrauding the VA By Falsely Claiming to Be Mother of Deceased Veteran’s Son

If this woman was able to so easily fool the VA for years to receive benefit money it just makes me wonder how much more fraud is going on?:

A woman faked the birth of a son to collect the veterans benefits for 17 years, according to court documents.

The man who the woman claimed was the father of the child was killed in High Point in 2006.

Elizabeth Hayes Cox, 60, claimed she gave birth to the son of Randall Cox, who was a military veteran receiving Veterans Administration benefits, according to an indictment. Records show she claimed Randall Cox’s benefits should be paid to her for child support, and she fraudulently collected $103,000 in benefits from March 2000 through May of this year.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link, but you would think the VA would ask for something as simple as a birth certificate to prove her claim?

55-Year Old Korean Woman Murders Her Friend By Drugging and Burying Her Alive

This is a horrible revenge tale:

A 55-year-old woman surnamed Lee and her son were both arrested on Thursday for burying her friend alive on her husband’s farm. The two face charges of murder and abandoning a corpse, while Lee’s husband has since committed suicide after police came to search his property.

On July 14, Lee called up her 49-year-old friend for a drive in Seongnam, Gyeonggi. They were longtime friends, having met at a social club in Seongnam over a decade ago. Lee’s 25-year-old son drove while Lee handed her friend a cup of coffee laced with sleeping pills. The mother-and-son pair drove to the farm of Lee’s husband in Cheorwon County, Gangwon, where they buried her friend alive.

Police began investigating the disappearance on Aug. 10, leaving open the possibility that the friend was being held against her will, given the inactivity they saw on her phone and bank account.

In September, police received reports that Lee had met the victim before her disappearance, and were able to confirm that Lee’s son had rented a car and driven to Cheorwon. Last Friday, the court issued an arrest warrant for Lee and Park on suspicion of holding the victim in confinement. Police arrested the two on Nov. 28.

The same day, police went to search the property of Lee’s husband. Though the 62-year-old husband was not regarded as a suspect, he hung himself in a storage room when they arrived, after excusing himself to the bathroom.

Lee and her son confessed to the crime late Tuesday. “She made me look like a thief,” Lee said.

In June last year, the victim had asked Lee to bring her some belongings from the home she was sharing with her abusive partner. But after the victim’s partner reported Lee to the police for larceny, the victim did not defend Lee. Lee was subsequently convicted and fined.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read the rest at the link, but hopefully the mother and son spend a long time in prison because that is a horrible way to die.

Chung Yoo-ra Avoids Getting Murdered By Man Who Forced His Away Into Her Apartment

Chung Yoo-ra is the 21-year old daughter of Choi Soon-sil who is currently imprisoned for using her connections to ex-President Park Geun-hye to enrich herself.  Chung was in the national media spotlight when she was on the run in Europe and ultimately extradited back to South Korea.  Since being extradited her arrest led to no new groundbreaking information and was released.  It looks like new trouble has found Chung as some guy has apparently tried to murder her:

Chung Yoo-ra

The daughter of Choi Soon-sil, the high-profile confidant of former President Park Geun-hye, avoided possibly being murdered Saturday as police caught a man who had broken into into her home with the alleged intention of killing her.

Chung Yoo-ra, 21, saw a man, identified by his surname Lee, 44, break into her home in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, around 3 p.m.

Lee threatened a security guard at the entrance of her apartment building and forced him to lead him to her suite. Entering her home, he stabbed a man inside.

Police received a report about the break-in and stabbing and arrived at the scene, where they grabbed Lee. The unidentified victim was taken to a hospital where he received a treatment.

During police questioning Lee confessed that he has a monetary issue with Chung.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link.

Korean Man Sentenced to 25 Years In Prison for Setting Ex-Girlfriend on Fire

Considering this guy’s violent past you would think he would have been locked up long ago before he did something like this:

A man in his 50s who poured gasoline on his ex-girlfriend and set her alight was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The woman, also in her 50s, suffered serious burns and died of complications two weeks after the incident in March 2016.

The Seoul Southern District Court on Monday found the man guilty of attempted murder.

“It was a premeditated crime,” Judge Shim Gyu-hong said. “The ruling was made after taking into account the nature and circumstances of the crime and his criminal record that indicates there are high chances of him committing another crime.”

He had been convicted more than 20 times for violent acts.

The man lived with the woman for a year in 2005. She dumped him in 2006. He tried unsuccessfully to restore the broken relationship over 11 years.

In March 2016, the man visited the woman at work holding a bag containing a gasoline-filled container and a lighter. When she refused to talk to him, he opened the container, poured the gasoline onto her head and set her on fire.  [Korea Times]

What I don’t understand is how is this a conviction for attempted murder when the woman died in the hospital two weeks later?  It seems like murder to me.

Japanese Man Living Near Camp Zama Arrested for Killing and Dismembering Nine People Since August

I wonder if this guy has been killing people for many years or if this killing spree over the past two months is the first time he has killed anyone?  Fortunately this guy is now off the streets:

Police arrested a 27-year-old man in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Tuesday after finding parts of nine bodies in his apartment, investigative sources said Tuesday.

The Metropolitan Police Department made the discovery while investigating Takahiro Shiraishi in connection with the disappearance of a 23-year-old woman from Hachioji, Tokyo. The woman is believed to have met the man after writing on a suicide website that she wanted to kill herself.

“It’s true that I tried to hide the bodies of the people I killed to destroy evidence,” Shiraishi was quoted as saying by the police.

According to investigative sources, Shiraishi has also told police that he killed all nine victims since he moved into the apartment in late August. He also told police that he took money from his victims and that the theft was one of his motives.

A saw, believed to have been used to dismember the bodies, was also found in the apartment. According to the police, Shiraishi said he cut up the bodies in the bath, disposing of some body parts in the garbage.

The apartment is located near the U.S. Army’s Camp Zama.  [Japan Times]

You can read more at the link.

Bowe Bergdahl Receives No Jail Time from Military Judge, But Charles Robert Jenkins Did?

I am surprised Bergdahl received no jail time:

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, center, arrives to the Fort Bragg courtroom facility for a sentencing hearing on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, on Fort Bragg, N.C.

A military judge’s decision Friday to issue no jail time and a dishonorable discharge for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl unleashed a wide range of emotions.

Several expressed anger that Bergdahl, 31, didn’t get the punishment they thought he should have, while others expressed understanding that he didn’t deserve more jail time.

Leading the charge of angry reaction was President Donald Trump, who went after the decision by the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance.

He sentenced Bergdahl to forfeit $10,000 in pay, a reduction in rank to E-1 private and a dishonorable discharge, barring him from receiving any medical or other benefits entitled to most veterans.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link, but I have always thought that Bergdahl should have at least received the Charles Robert Jenkins punishment.  What Jenkins did caused far less risk for US troops because nobody had to search to find him when he defected to North Korea unlike Bergdahl who initiated a massive search which put soldiers lives at risk.  Jenkins also spent far more time in captivity than Bergdahl, 39 years compared to Bergdahl’s 5, and yet Jenkins received a month of jail time and Bergdahl received none.

Finally Jenkins was not released in exchange for a group of terrorists like Bergdahl was.  Just these facts alone should warrant jail time for Bergdahl if Jenkins received jail time.  I wonder if the judge presiding over the case even considered Jenkins past sentence as a precedent before issuing his ruling?

Korean Woman Receives Six Years In Jail for Killing 2-Year Old Boy Who Took Toy From Her Daughter

What is wrong with people?:

A 30-something woman has been sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of killing her acquaintance’s 2-year-old son, who allegedly harassed her 1-year-old daughter, a local court said Saturday.

The unidentified woman was arrested in October last year when she threw the 2-year-old at her acquaintance’s home in Asan of South Chungcheong Province, about 100 kilometers south of Seoul, after getting angry at the boy for pushing her daughter while trying to get a toy from her.

The baby boy suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was pronounced dead at the hospital the following day.  [Yonhap]

You can read the rest at the link, but the woman is appealing because she did not intentionally seek to injure the boy.  What did she think was going to happen when she threw a two year old across the room?

Korean Woman Receives Life In Prison for Poisoning Lovers Wife

This is a horrible murder that occurred in Seoul:

The Supreme Court has confirmed life imprisonment for a woman who killed her married lover’s wife with poison. The top court upheld an appellate court’s verdict.

According to court documents, the woman, Han, 48, met Yoo, a married man who became her lover, at a gathering of friends from elementary school in February 2014.

Han told Yoo’s wife of their “deep and serious” relationship, hoping this would lead to the couple’s breakup. But instead Yoo’s wife offered to pay Han 350 million won ($309,700) if she ended the relationship.

In January 2015, Han visited Yoo’s apartment in Songpa-gu, Seoul, with a bottle of soju mixed with potassium cyanide. Yoo’s wife drank the toxic liquid while talking with Han, and died soon after.

Han claimed Yoo’s husband could have killed his wife.

But investigators found evidence that Han collected information about how and where to buy potassium cyanide.

They also found evidence that her husband was informed of the poisoning plan before hand.   [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

GI Flashbacks: The 1999 Murder of SFC Jeanne Balcombe

A Night of Drinking Turns Into Murder

In the early morning hours of Saturday, August 21, 1999 Sergeant First Class Jeanne Balcombe was on duty at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.  She was a platoon sergeant in the 55th Military Police Company doing what every good Non-commissioned officer does, enforcing standards.  She was conducting checks that night when she saw one of the soldiers in her platoon who appeared to be drunk and was underage to be consuming alcohol.  The soldier had been drinking with the 20-year old, Private First Class Jacob M. Bowley who also a member of her platoon.  The soldiers had been on a four-day pass and SFC Balcombe removed their pass privileges and brought the underage soldier to the Camp Red Cloud medical clinic to have his blood drawn to test for alcohol.

Soldiers getting caught underage drinking in in Korea is very common and there was nothing unusual about this incident until PFC Bowley barged into the medical clinic shortly before 4 A.M. with a gun.  After PFC Bowley had his pass privileges removed by SFC Balcombe his anger boiled over and he was determined to get back at SFC Balcombe.

On the night Balcombe was killed, she caught Bowley and another underage soldier drinking. Balcombe took away a four-day leave pass from Bowley and made the other soldier submit to a blood-alcohol test.

Messer testified that Bowley was angry the pass was taken away that night.  [Stars & Stripes – Jan. 29, 2000]

To exact his revenge he needed a weapon.  Korean Augmentee to the US Army (KATUSA) Corporal Suh So-so worked as a military policeman in Bowley’s unit and was on duty that night which meant he had his 9mm pistol on him.  Corporal Suh who had no reason to suspect an attack from a member of his unit, was taken by surprise when Bowley approached him and then viciously attacked him.  PFC Bowley left Corporal Suh on the ground badly beaten and then took his sidearm.  Now that he was armed Bowley next headed to the Camp Red Cloud medical clinic to confront SFC Balcombe.

Camp Red Cloud Medical Clinic via Bruce Richards’ webpage.

SFC Balcombe who was unarmed at the time tried to intervene to stop the gunman and in the ensuing confrontation she was shot three times by Bowley to include once in the head killing her.  After the confrontation, Bowley repeatedly said, “She took my pass away!”  Investigators also believed that Bowley was attempting to shoot the soldier having his blood drawn because he told SFC Balcombe that Bowley was the one that provided him with the alcohol.  However, the confrontation SFC Balcombe had with Bowley provided enough time for others in the clinic to flee.

Other witnesses recounted grisly details during the first day of the hearing for Pfc. Jacob Bowley, who pleaded guilty last week to murdering Sgt. 1st Class Jean Balcombe. Balcombe, 33, worked for 1st Platoon, 55th Military Police Company, at Camp Red Cloud.

Capt. Edward McDaniel, officer in charge of the medical clinic, testified that Bowley silently walked into the facility on the morning of Aug. 21. Another soldier asked Bowley what he was doing, McDaniel said.

“Moments later, he reached behind his back and pulled out a weapon,” McDaniel said. “He pointed it in the direction of Sgt. Balcombe and (Sgt.) Huh.

“I was screaming, ‘Don’t shoot, don’t shoot.’ ”

McDaniel and Sgt. Huh Dong-pil, a Korean soldier assigned to the 168th Medical Battalion, heard three shots. Huh, who said he was within two arms’ lengths of Balcombe, escaped into a nearby room.

“The situation was very bad and dangerous,” Huh said. “I was in a panic.”

Blood seeped under a door in the room where he hid, Huh said. After two more gunshots, he said he heard a “gurgling” sound and Balcombe’s breathing.  [Stars & Stripes – Jan. 26, 2000]

Bowley after the murder fled in a military police Galloper Jeep from Camp Red Cloud.  At the exit gate for the camp he brandished his gun at the gate guard to let him through.  The Galloper was later found parked near the Uijongbu City Hall.  Bowley then made his way via train to the southeastern city of Busan.  Once there he attempted to withdraw cash from an ATM at the Yangjong-dong branch of the Seoul Bank branch in the city.  A Korean national at the bank saw the suspicious looking soldier and reported it to the police.  Bowley a short time later was apprehended by Korean police at 11:40am at the bank.  At the time of his apprehension he was cooperative as he was taken to a police car, but once in the police car he tried to pull out the gun he had concealed in his waistband.  A scuffle with the police ensured and they were able to disarm him.  Even during questioning Bowley was out of control and had to be restrained to his chair by the Korean police.

Stars & Stripes newspaper Aug. 22, 1999.

The Trial

PFC Bowley was charged with murder, aggravated assault, and five other charges after the killing of SFC Balcombe.

Stars & Stripes newspaper Sept. 2, 1999.

As the case went to trial PFC Bowley decided to plead guilty and his defense lawyer asked the judge to show leniency during sentencing blaming drinking caused by the stress of being in Korea for his actions:

During her closing statement, defense attorney Capt. Donna Hansen said
Bowley’s guilty plea showed he had taken responsibility for his actions.
In asking for a 10-year sentence, Hansen said Bowley had the potential
for rehabilitation.

“What Jacob Morgan Bowley did is wrong, but he is not evil,” Hansen
said. “Punishment is a must, but the degree of punishment must be
tempered.”

Heavy drinking and difficult duty in Korea put stress on Bowley, Hansen
said. The murder represented “an aberration to the real Jacob Bowley,”
she said.  [Stars & Stripes – Jan. 31, 2000]

Bowley also took the stand pleading for leniency as well blaming stress and drinking for what he did:

Pfc. Jacob Bowley testified at his sentencing hearing Friday that he wished he could “erase this nightmare” begun when he fatally shot a military policewoman in a fit of rage.

“I wish I could stop the suffering I’ve caused, but there’s no going back,” said Bowley, who pleaded guilty last week to murder in the Aug. 21 shooting of Sgt. 1st Class Jeanne Balcombe, 32, of the 55th Military Police Company at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea.

“All I can do is say that I’m sorry, but that will never be enough.”

Bowley made the statements during unsworn testimony, meaning he could not be questioned by government prosecutors.

Unsworn statements carry less weight in court during deliberations.

Bowley said he wishes he knew why he took a gun into the medical clinic at Red Cloud and shot Balcombe to death. Balcombe belonged to the same unit as Bowley.

“I shot an MP,” Bowley said. “I shot my platoon sergeant. I have to live knowing that I could do something like that.”

Bowley said he had a drinking problem, and alcohol “was pretty much the only way I could find to release (tension).” He said he tried to enroll in a treatment program, but that noncommissioned officers in his company wouldn’t let him. As a result, his drinking continued, Bowley said.

Reading from two prepared statements, Bowley apologized to the slain woman’s husband, Michael Balcombe, who flew from McMinnville, Ore., to attend the sentencing. But Bowley said he felt he could someday become a productive member of society.

“Still, I beg for mercy,” Bowley said to Col. Ronald White, the military judge. “I ask that I have another chance for life. Sir, I ask you to give me that chance.”  [Stars & Stripes – Jan. 29, 2000]

It must have worked because the judge in the case, Colonel Ronald White sentenced Bowley to 56 years in prison, but he was given the possibility of parole after 10-years.  Bowley wanted another chance at life and the possibility of parole left that opportunity out there for him.

Why Did He Do It?

The violence perpetuated by Bowley seemed to be out of character for him if you believe what his friends and family from his hometown in New Hampshire had to say:

Bowley’s father, Freeman Bowley, who lives in Henniker, N.H., told The Associated Press his son was “just a wonderful kid. He loved the Army. He was having a great time.”

“All I’ve heard was there was some kind of altercation at the base where he was at . . . and one person is dead. And it’s not Jacob. And he’s involved in the questioning somehow,” he said.

He said his son has been serving at Camp Red Cloud since November and was planning to go into the criminal justice field after leaving the Army.  [Stars & Stripes – Aug. 24, 1999]

Others in his hometown called him a “teddy bear” and a “gentle giant”:

Other testimony Thursday came from numerous people who knew Bowley from his hometown of Hillsboro, N.H. All said they were shocked to learn of the murder, many describing Bowley as a “teddy bear” and a “gentle giant.”  [Stars & Stripes – Jan. 29, 2000]

Clearly the so called “gentle giant” had some lingering anger management issues that was made worse by the drinking and drugs he was doing while in Korea.  In 2007 while confined at the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Bowley wrote a letter that was published by a Buddhist publication called Mindfulness Bell that discusses his anger and substance abuse issues and how Buddhism helped him address these problems:

I was confined in the summer of 1999, twenty years old and more a prisoner of my own deep inner fears than the walls around me. Wrapped up in the great speed of the world, I had been able — with the help of drugs and alcohol — to maintain in my mind an impressive illusion of control. Here in prison the reins were clearly not in my hands; I knew no way to keep up my speed. Forced to stop, or at least slow down, I had to face the bitter truth: my will did not rule the world. This disappointment was too much for me to contend with day after day so I closed my eyes in anger. I would rage against the whole world until it consented to the perpetual gratification of my senses.  [Mindfulness Bell]

You can read the rest at the link, but Bowley in the article said that he would like to become a monk whenever he is released.

The Aftermath

SFC Balcombe was 32 at the time of her early death and left behind a husband Mike Balcombe who was a retired Army NCO and two young daughters.  Her family was living in her home state of Oregon during her one year tour of duty in Korea.  SFC Balcombe was buried in McMinnville, Oregon at the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.

She was buried with full military honors by an honor guard from Fort Lewis, Washington.  SFC Balcombe had previously served at Fort Lewis and all the soldiers in the honor guard either knew or served with Balcombe there.  Her husband Mike was presented her Soldier’s Medal, the second-highest honor that can be bestowed during peacetime.  The medal was posthumously awarded to SFC Balcombe because of her actions confronting Bowley which allowed other soldiers to escape the medical clinic.  Additionally in front of the Camp Red Cloud medical clinic a marker with a tree was planted in honor of SFC Jeanne Balcombe.  It can still be seen there today.  A final honor for SFC Balcombe was that in 2016 she was inducted into the National Army Museum.

As for Bowley I could not confirm whether or not he was paroled.  However, I was able to find a Jacob M. Bowley that lives in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, that is the same age as the Private Bowley that was incarcerated.

Additionally the Jacob Bowley in the listing is related to a Freeman Bowley.  Freeman Bowley is the name of Private Bowley’s dad as identified in the prior Stars & Stripes article.  So I think it is a pretty safe assumption that Private Bowley has in fact been paroled.  If he has been paroled it seems like pretty light punishment to be in jail for less than 20 years after committing such a horrible murder.  Hopefully he lives the rest of his life trying to atone for taking away a fine NCO from her soldiers and more importantly a wife and mom from her husband and two kids.

Further Reading: