| Officials at Osan lift ban on 8 local bars |
Owners promise to curb violence, prostitution and underage drinking
By Franklin Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, February 19, 2009
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Officials here have lifted a ban on eight local bars after the owners promised to keep them free of prostitution, underage drinking and other unsafe or illegal conditions, the Air Force said Tuesday.
Osan’s 51st Fighter Wing commander Col. Thomas H. Deale lifted the ban Monday after the owners spelled out in writing the things they’d do to keep the bars free of crime and violence, said wing spokeswoman 1st Lt. Malinda C. Singleton.
"They said that they’re really going to work to police themselves," she said.
The affected bars are the Stardust, Young Chon, Eagles and Golden Gate clubs, and the Chicago Club, Blood Club, Club Sting, and UN Club.
Deale had put the eight off-limits after Air Force police allegedly turned up evidence of "bar fining."
Bar fining is a practice in which a patron pays the club to allow a bar girl to leave the premises for an agreed-upon period. Authorities say bar fining is typically a symptom of prostitution.
In two letters sent to Osan’s Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, the owners promised "to ensure that their entertainment environment does not support illegal activities," Singleton said. Osan officials would not release copies of the letters to Stars and Stripes.
The owners said they’ll move to avert bar fining, barroom violence and underage drinking, Singleton said.
In addition, she said, the owners will post signs in their clubs "letting U.S. personnel know that bar fining is not allowed."
Owners or their representatives had also held three meetings with the control board.
And they had help from Pyeongtaek city hall and the Korean National Police in finding a way to resolve the ban, Singleton said.
Based on those meetings and letters, the board recommended to Deale that he lift the ban, she said.
The disciplinary control board advises the wing commander on conditions at clubs or other off-base venues that can pose harm to U.S. servicemembers and their families, and the wing commander can put such places off limits.
Yi Sang-chul, manager at the Young Chon Club and a member of the Songtan Special Tourism Association, said club owners welcomed the news. The association represents bar and hotel owners in the Shinjang Mall area of Songtan, a section of Pyeongtaek in which Osan Air Base is located.
The off-limits ban had forced the Young Chon to close for three weeks starting Jan. 22, said Yi.
Yi Jin-yong, owner of the Golden Gate, said he lost weeks of business because of the ban, but still had to pay rent on the property.
"Now we can work … off-limits finish," he said. "That’s good."