SEOUL, South Korea - Three U.S. soldiers were assaulted on a Seoul subway over the weekend, and one was briefly abducted by South Korean university students on their way to an anti-American demonstration, the U.S. military reported yesterday.
The U.S. Embassy here lodged an immediate protest with the South Korean government over the incident and the way it was handled by local police.
There were sharply conflicting versions of who was at fault in what apparently started as a brawl on the subway.
In an unusually angry statement, the U.S. military said the three soldiers were accosted by a large group of students and political activists who were on their way to a demonstration Saturday night at Seoul's Kyungee University.
The activists allegedly tried to hand the soldiers a leaflet about the demonstration, which concerned two 13-year-old girls killed in an accident involving a U.S. military vehicle. When the soldiers refused to take the Korean-language leaflet, the statement reported, the crowd became angry and a scuffle broke out.
The soldiers then got off the subway to wait for a later train. At that point, the military said, they were surrounded by demonstrators who "pulled, punched, kicked and spat" on them as about 200 people looked on. Two of the soldiers were turned over to Korean police, but a third - identified as Pvt. John Murphy - was dragged to the demonstration.
"The demonstrators allegedly abducted Murphy and took him against his will to the university's stadium where a memorial demonstration was being held for the two teen-age girls," the U.S. forces statement said. "The captors allegedly forced Murphy to watch the demonstration. During this time he was photographed, videotaped and allegedly forced to make a public statement about the incident on the train and in support of the demonstrators."