GI Flashback: The 2004 Shinchon Stabbing Incident

The Shinchon Stabbing Incident occurred on May 15th, 2004 when 4 GI’s and a KATUSA went and partied in the Shinchon area of Seoul one night.  The soldier with tattoos pictured below apparently was extremely drunk and walked out in front of a taxi cab when the stop light was green.  This caused a confrontation between the drunk soldier and the taxi cab driver.  During the confrontation some “concerned citizens” intervened to help the taxi driver and some heated words were exchanged.  I believe it is safe to assume that many of the “concerned citizens” who mostly were Korean college students were probably equally drunk at the time.

Is there a better propaganda picture than this for the anti-US crowd? This picture was actually staged by the “concerned citizens” at the scene to give the soldier the worst image possible in the media.

Anyway a fight broke out and nobody can really say for sure who started it, but it ultimately ended up involving all the US soldiers who were surrounded by dozens of “concerned citizens” eager to pound on some GI’s.  One of the soldiers in an effort to defend himself pulled out a pocket knife to get the attackers off of him who were choking him. In a struggle with the attackers the soldier accidentally cut the throat of the Korean student.  This pocket knife would later go on to be described in the Korean media as a military issue knife conjuring up images of some Rambo blade when in fact it was a simple pocket knife. The soldiers were eventually subdued by the mob and arrested by the police department. I had predicted at the time nothing would happen to the students and the soldier would get slammed and nobody would care. Well that is unfortunately the case.

You can actually read a detailed account of what that night from John Humphrey at this link.

shinchon stabbing2

Private John Humphrey being choked by a “concerned citizen”.

The soldier in question, Pvt. John C. Humphrey was convicted of attempted homicide after stabbing a 27-year-old man in the neck with the knife. He was given a 2 1/2 year sentence in a Korean prison.  The soldier was at first charged with simple battery since he was trying to protect himself, but due to all the misinformation in the media the charges were upgraded to attempted murder.  This case I use as a perfect example to my soldiers of what not to do in Korea. Pvt. Murphy was probably a good kid just out having a good time with his friends when things went wrong and now his life has been seriously impacted and he had to sit in prison for 2 1/2 years. The entire Shinchon area is off limits to soldiers for good reason; to prevent incidents like this from happening. Unfortunately these soldiers did not abide by this command policy.  An additional thing to keep in mind is that GI’s should not carry knives with them in Korea.  I understand in America it is common to carry a knife, but in Korea pulling a knife on someone is like pulling a gun on someone in the States.  This is considered a massive escalation of the confrontation by Korean standards.

Anyway there is a fringe minority in Korea who looks to create incidents with soldiers and drunk GIs. Harassing a taxi cab driver is just asking for trouble. Any incident in Korea between soldiers and Koreans will always end with the soldier on the losing end no matter if the Korean started it or not.  Notice that in the Shinchon Stabbing Incident that these soldiers were assaulted by the “concerned citizens”, but none of them were charged with a crime, in fact they were treated as heroes:

No matter what poor judgement the Shinchon GI did or didn’t exercise in carrying a knife with him or for using it (I wasn’t there, either, of course, there were certain hugely mitigating circumstances that call into question the notion of the “crazed American GI tearing up the streets”, which certainly should shed doubt on the Korean media’s labeling the Korean guy who did the attacking in the first place any sort of “hero”, which should call into question that hack with a toy camera – Bae Sang Beom – being a “photographer” or a “journalist”, and should definitely cast doubt as to whether Oh My News is really even a “newspaper.”

Bae Sang Beom – you’re not a “photographer” or a “witness” or a “documentarian,” nor are you journalistically honest enough to admit to yourself that you actually didn’t see (or photograph) anything but a couple of GI’s being held by a large crowd, waaaaay after the fact. Sounds familiar to me, from what I’ve seen with my own two eyes and with my own cameras.

The bottom line is that when in a confrontation with Koreans, especially went it makes the news more than likely your side of the story will never get heard and you will be demonized in the media. So the best course of action is to always keep away from situations that can turn into something that makes you out as the bad guy. Walk away from confrontations and whatever you do never use a weapon. If you are soldier reading this heed my advice and follow all command policies, they are there for a reason, so you don’t end up becoming the next Pvt. Murphy.

Note: You can read more GI Flashbacks articles by clicking on the below link: