New Law Drops BAC Limit to .03% for All Troops Stationed in South Korea

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rylynn Paz demonstrates the proper use of a portable breathalyzer test (PBT) with Airman 1st Class John Cabral at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Sept. 30, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/1st Lt. Matthew Van Wagenen)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rylynn Paz demonstrates the proper use of a portable breathalyzer test (PBT) with Airman 1st Class John Cabral at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Sept. 30, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/1st Lt. Matthew Van Wagenen)

Thousands of troops stationed in the Republic of Korea have to abide by a new blood alcohol concentration limit enacted by the country earlier this week.

Service members cannot operate vehicles with a BAC above 0.03%, according to U.S Forces Korea spokeswoman Jacqueline Leeker.

"The change in law is a Republic of Korea decision," Leeker said in an email to Military.com. "United States Forces Korea Regulation 190-1 is being changed to adapt to Korea's .03% law change."

For a man weighing up to 200 pounds, consuming two drinks within one hour is enough to raise BAC to .04%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For a woman weighing up to 180 pounds, just one drink is enough to raise BAC to .03%. Women weighing 120 pounds or below could exceed the legal limit after a single drink.

The new law doesn't just apply to cars. The BAC limit applies to scooters, hoverboards or bicycles as well in keeping with South Korea's Road Traffic Act, Leeker said.

"USFK takes any act of driving under the influence extremely seriously," she said. "We have measures in place to aggressively combat these issues such as educating USFK personnel on the consequences of drunken or reckless driving."

Related content:

There are roughly 28,000 American service members and civilian military personnel serving across the country at installations including Osan and Kunsan Air Bases; Army Garrison Yongsan; Army Garrison Daegu Camp Walker; and Camp Humphreys, among others.

Osan Air Base issued a reminder to its airmen earlier this week.

"The legal BAC limit in the Republic of Korea has dropped from 0.05% to 0.03% effective TODAY," the base said in a Facebook post Monday.

"If you choose to consume alcohol, make the wise decision to not operate a vehicle. This includes, but is not limited to, e-scooters, bicycles, and electric skateboards. Bottom line, if it travels, you control it and your BAC is equal [to], or greater than 0.03%, you WILL get a DUI. The penalty in the Republic of Korea for a DUI is five years in prison and/or a ₩20 million (equal to about $17,325). Make wise decisions and don't forget to be a #wingman!" the post said.

Leeker said the new restrictions come after a Korean soldier died last year after a hit-and-run accident.

"The stricter punishment for drunk driving was introduced in the wake of the death of a 22-year-old Korean soldier named Yoon Chang-ho, who died Nov. 9, 2018 after he was hit by a Korean drunk driver," Leeker said.

Chang-ho was serving with the Korean Augmentation Troops to the U.S. Army. The accident occurred while he and a friend were on leave in the port city of Busan on Sept. 25.

"The Yoon Chang-ho Law," was created to reduce the drunk-driving rate across the country, Leeker said.

USFK doesn't currently have any service members facing the new penalty.

"While there have been USFK DUI incidents in the past year, to this point, we have not had anyone identified in Korea's sweeps for drunk drivers under the new law, which went into effect June 25, 2019," Leeker said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

Show Full Article