Logistics: Black Market Blues Persist


July 23, 2009: In South Korea, U.S. and local investigators exposed a black market operation that had stolen nearly $8 million worth of goods from the U.S. post exchange (military run department store found on most bases) at Camp Stanley, a U.S. Army base between Seoul (South Korea's largest city) and the DMZ (North Korean border) to the north. The base houses 2,200 troops, plus 500, mostly local, civilians that work there. The scam was run by South Koreans, five of them employees of the post exchange.

Such crimes have been a part of military life for Americans overseas since, well, as long as Americans have been overseas. The post (or base, on air bases) exchange is attractive to local criminals, because it is full of goods that are either not available to local civilians, or are only available (because of stiff import tariffs) at higher prices. Back in the 1950s and 60s, when South Korea was quite poor, access to post exchange goods was a constant temptation for troops, who would buy goods at typically (even by stateside standards) low prices, then sell them for a nice profit on the black market. But more ambitious scammers would try to bribe post exchange employees to steal high priced goods (particularly electronics) and sell them for a huge profit on the local black market. There was also a market for military goods, everything from blankets, to field rations and even weapons.

The wealth found on American military bases, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, continue to attract thieves and scammers who cannot pass up a chance to make a quick buck. You'll be hearing more about the dark side of base and post exchanges in foreign lands long after the violence has died down in the War on Terror battlefields.



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