Here is an article in the Stars & Stripes about alcohol use by servicemembers stationed in Asia:
U.S. commanders in Japan have been scrambling to curtail alcohol-fueled military misconduct since the alleged rape of an Okinawa woman by two American sailors in October and a rash of other off-base misconduct incidents that followed.
Curfews, liberty restrictions and buddy systems were imposed. Lt. Gen. Sam Angelella, U.S. Forces Japan commander, even went so far as to head up an ad hoc late-night “courtesy” patrol of bar row near Yokota Air Base.
But truly solving the military’s recurring alcohol abuse problems in the Pacific is unlikely, experts say.
That’s because military officials are dealing with an entrenched culture of alcohol use that’s unique to the region. Research has found that military personnel stationed in Korea and Japan are significantly more likely to be heavy drinkers than troops in other parts of the world. GIs here are apt to drink more, feel the need to do so to fit in and believe booze is the only entertainment at hand.
That’s not to say alcohol abuse isn’t a problem throughout the military. An extensive study released by the Institute of Medicine in September found that heavy alcohol use — defined as five or more drinks in one occasion at least once per week — by active military members increased steadily from 1998 to 2008, the latest year figures were available for the study.
The drinking culture facing troops stationed in Japan and South Korea, however, is distinctive for a number of reasons.
Troops arriving in the two countries are greeted by deep indigenous cultures of drinking.
Comparative studies in the 1990s found that South Korea had the highest global rates of alcohol abuse and dependence. The top-selling spirit in the world is Korean soju. It’s high in alcohol and cheaper than bottled water, at the equivalent of $1.10 for three-quarters of a pint. [Stars & Stripes]
You can read the rest at the link, but I have addressed this issue here on the ROK Drop for years. For example below is an excerpt of what I wrote all the way back in 2007 when USFK was going through one of the cycles where every little incident became national news thus a similar crackdown on USFK servicemembers began just like what is happening in USFJ now:
The truth is there is no one reason to blame for these incidents. GI incidents are a product of simple statistics, the environment in Korea, and leadership. Statistics show that the trouble makers are immature young, male, junior enlisted soldiers. Guess what USFK is primarily filled with, young, male, junior enlisted soldiers so this shouldn’t be no surprise. Trouble from this group has always happened regardless of if the global war on terror is going on or not. In fact the behavior of USFK soldiers overall has increased (see here and here) over the past few years that the war has been going on. (…………..)
Now compare this with the last seven years of General LaPorte’s and General Bell’s time in command of USFK, which just so happens to coincide with the war on terror, where not one murder has occurred. In fact a USFK servicemember was more recently murdered by a Korean than vice versa. So why is there a perception out there of “Surging GI Crime” in Korea? In the 90′s the internet was not nearly as prevalent as it is today. So when incidents involving GIs happened most Korean never heard about it unless it was a major incident like the Markle case. Compare that to today where every single incident involving GIs hits the Korean media and people can discuss these incidents on the various blogs and chat rooms. This Naeil Shinmun piece for the most part provides a pretty good run down of the perception problem.
This perception problem has caused a command environment where they are trying to prevent all incidents when preventing all incidents is statistically impossible. There is approximately 50,000 USFK servicemembers, contractors, and family members in Korea. Is there a town of 50,000 people in either the US or Korea with no crime? That is what the USFK leaders are trying to create which is statistically impossible. In order to create a crime free environment, that is why a curfew is implemented, the battle buddy policy exist, the loss of driving privileges for most USFK service members, BAC regulations in 2ID, certain areas are put off limits, along with a host of other regulations. From the get go all these regulations cause a negative perception of Korea in soldiers minds once they reach the country.
Now combine all these regulations with the ville culture that promotes alcohol and sex. The ville is one of the first things these new young, male soldier experience when arriving in Korea. The ville is something that you would find in a third world country, which Korea is not, but that is what most soldiers initial experience in Korea is. These soldiers are surrounded with alcohol and juicy girls so is it any wonder that these guys take this ville mentality to the rest of Korea? Than to top it off, the few people within this population that are married are serving in Korea without their families which may moderate their behavior otherwise.
Now the primary supervisors of these young guys just happens to be the E5 sergeant rank which guess what, is filled with these young guys as well. The rank of sergeant does not carry the respect it once had because many of the people today getting promoted to E5 don’t act like an NCO. Many of them act like higher paid E4s. They would rather be buddies with their soldiers instead of leading and supervising them. The soldiers today are more coddled than in the past and this coddling is being reflected in the E5 rank. To many people are not willing to hammer a young soldier for indiscipline compared to the past. Article 15s are a great way to get a soldier’s attention, but unfortunately I don’t think they are used enough.
To make things more challenging is that the NCOs in charge of the E5s, the E6 staff sergeants, get tasked out more than any other rank. If they aren’t pulling staff duty, they are on CQ, if they aren’t on CQ they have bus monitor, if they aren’t doing that they are on a simcenter tasking, and the taskings go on and on. This leaves the platoon sergeants to really do a lot of the E5 mentoring. The platoon sergeant position in Korea is probably one of the hardest working jobs in USFK. A good platoon sergeant can compensate for the unusual USFK environment and mentor these E5s and discipline the younger soldiers. Unfortunately not every platoon sergeant is a good one which leaves these E5s to lead soldiers that they aren’t ready to lead. If the platoon sergeant isn’t up to speed than the first sergeant really has his work cut out for him keeping the unit in line. It is the same story on the officer side, commanders need to empower lieutenants to act like leaders of their soldiers. If a platoon has a poor platoon sergeant, a pro-active platoon leader may be able to compensate for this. I have seen it done before.
Now you combine all this with the one year tours where you do not have the unit cohesion you would have in a state side unit because of all the constantly rotating personnel. All of this adds up to an environment where soldiers have a negative perception of Korea once they arrive in country, do not like serving in Korea while here, and are happy to leave when PCS time comes. It is amazing that the crime rate is as low as it is. Most importantly before anyone should make claims about “Surging GI Crime” it is important to look at statistics and take a historical perspective to determine if these perceptions are true, which obviously in this case they are not.
Additionally, you can see there is no one simple answer to why incidents happen and similarly these is no one simple answer to address it. A change in policies and regulations, combined with changes in the ville culture, and improvement in unit leadership would go a long way to further reducing incidents, but there is only one way to end all incidents and that would be with the removal of USFK.
You can read the full posting from 5 and half year ago at this link. USFJ is now going through a similar period as USFK did back in the mid-2000′s due to the media publicizing every little incident that happens. So to stop every little incident from happening the USFJ leadership is copying nearly every policy USFK implemented in the mid-2000′s despite these policies not preventing incidents from happening in USFK. However, despite USFJ leaderships claims that their new restrictions is aimed at stopping all incidents, they have to know this is a statistical impossibility and this all is likely a big PR move to show the Japanese citizens USFJ is “doing something” just like USFK nearly a decade ago.