Exceptionally Repugnant, I’d Say: Three years is a light sentence for a double murder

Ridge Alkonis is a member of US military.  He killed two innocent people in 2021, falling asleep at the wheel.  His pathetic “defence” in court was “acute mountain sickness”, as if elevation changes from a mountain hike could cause it.  In a rare case of justice, he was convicted in a Japanese court, but sentenced to only three years in prison.

Naturally, the US military, government, and media see this as an “injustice” and the lives of Japanese citizens dispensible and unimportant.  From “stars and stripes”:

Navy officer reports to Japanese prison as US lawmakers pledge support for his release

Navy Lt. Ridge Alkonis, convicted of causing the deaths of two Japanese citizens last year, reported to a Japanese prison on Monday after U.S politicians voiced disappointment with Japan’s handling of his case. 

Alkonis, 34, of Claremont, Calif., was sentenced in October in Shizuoka District Court to three years in prison for negligent driving causing death. The Tokyo High Court rejected his appeal on July 13.

U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokeswoman Cmdr. Katie Cerezo confirmed by phone Tuesday that Alkonis reported to the Tokyo High Court’s Prosecutors Office on Monday and was taken to the Tokyo Detention House for processing. She said he’ll ultimately be placed in Yokosuka Prison, although the timeline for that is unclear, she said.

Alkonis was driving on May 29, 2021, in Shizuoka prefecture, about two hours from Yokosuka, when his car plowed into pedestrians and parked cars outside a soba restaurant in Fujinomiya. Alkonis, his wife and three children were returning from a hike on Mount Fuji.

The most galling part of that item is these paragraphs:

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Calif., on July 22 said the trial process was unfair to Alkonis and violated the status of forces agreement that outlines the rights and responsibilities of individuals affiliated with the U.S. military in Japan.  Congresswoman Aumua Amata Radewagen, a Republican from Samoa, speaking in the House on July 20, said she was “deeply troubled by Japan’s mistreatment” of Alkonis and called on Biden and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel to act. 

“These abuses are hurting the U.S.-Japan alliance exactly when it needs to be strengthened,” she said. 

On Monday, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tweeted that the U.S. should consider reevaluating SOFA if “this is how Japan is going to treat U.S. military personnel who have done NOTHING wrong …”

So falling asleep at the wheel, running over and murdering two people is “nothing wrong”?  Is Lee personal friends with Caitlin Jenner or something?  Once again, the laughable and revolting fiction that “the US prosecutes crimes, we don’t commit ’em!”

More below.

South Korea and Japan are frenemies, two countries that sometimes are at odds with each other, sometimes recognizing that they need each other as allies.  I’m sure South Koreans feel a sense of justice and empathy in Alkonis’s conviction.  At least he will go to prison, unlike Mark Walker and Fernando Nino, the pair who murdered two teenage Korean girls in the Yangju Highway Incident on June 13, 2002, a tragedy which just passed its twentieth anniversary and whose families have never received justice, only a mealy mouthed “apology” from the US military which refused to accept responsibility for their deaths.

The New York Timid Times published this item on July 31, 2002, falsely labelling it an “accident”:

Road accident galvanizes the country : Deaths in Korea ignite anti-American passion

UIJONGBU, South Korea:— On a concrete wall surrounding Camp Red Cloud, a small U.S. Army post here, an identification photograph of Sergeant Mark Walker stares blankly from dozens of posters proclaiming him “wanted” for the “crime of murder.”

As banners beside the wall declare in large Korean lettering, Walker was driving a 57-ton armored vehicle that crushed to death two 13-year-old girls as a convoy passed their village on its way to a training range about 19 kilometers (12 miles) north of Seoul. The accident June 13 has become a focal point for local opposition to the presence of the 37,000 U.S. military personnel on Korean soil.

“Basically, the entire country is galvanized behind this incident,” said a U.S. official in Seoul, speaking anonymously. “It will be forever brought up in news articles that we callously ran over these two girls. I don’t think we are going to recover from this.”

On Tuesday a group of South Koreans charged onto the main U.S. base in Seoul and attacked U.S. soldiers to protest against the accident. The American command, called United States Forces Korea, said three staff members were kicked and beaten by the protesters, who were escorted off Yongsan Base by South Korean police. Seventeen protesters were detained.

Protests are expected to reach a crescendo Wednesday when several thousand people, led by a coalition of students and clergymen, are expected to demonstrate in central Seoul. Posters throughout the region announcing “the 49th day of mourning” — a critical date after any death in Korean culture — urge crowds to converge in front of the Seoul City Hall and the nearby U.S. Embassy.

On July 5, the U.S. Army charged the driver of the vehicle and another sergeant with negligent homicide in the deaths of the girls. On July 10, the South Korean Justice Ministry asked the U.S. command to transfer jurisdiction over the two soldiers to a Korean court.

Under a bilateral agreement, the U.S. command has jurisdiction over U.S. military personnel while on duty. But the command can transfer jurisdiction to the host country on a case-by-case basis.

What did the US military do after this?  They helped the two escape trial, “evacuating” them (as one would evacuate bowels) for a phony “court martial” in the US where they were deemed ‘not guilty’ according to the predetermined verdict.

I lived in South Korea from July 2001 to May 2005, and well remember this as it happened.  People were pissed.  The US protected the murderers just to maintain the fiction of “no convictions of US forces abroad!” despite all the assaults and rapes that were well known in South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere.

The Yangju Highway Incident happened three days after the 2002 World Cup match between South Korea and the US.  If the game had taken place after the girls’ deaths, it could have turned very ugly.

(I started wearing a goatee mid-summer out of self-defence.  If Koreans were going to wrongly assume I was an american, as least they would know I wasn’t in the military where being clean shaven is mandatory.  And I started using French daily while I was out walking, even if mine was terrible, just so they’d think “not speaking English = not american”.)

This article was from Jun 12, 2012, on the tenth anniversary of their murders:

Tenth anniversary of girls killed by US military armored vehicle

It has been ten years now since two young Korean girls were fatally struck by an armored US military vehicle. It was an incident that raised questions about the basic nature of the South Korea-US alliance and resulted in the country’s first candlelight vigils. The passion would end up carrying through to the presidential election in December of 2002. On June 6, the Hankyoreh visited Yangju, Gyeonggi province where Hyo-sun and Mi-seon where lived.

At around 10 am on June 13, 2002, fourteen-year-old Hyo-sun left her home in Yangju. It was the day before her birthday, and a day of local elections across the country. For the holiday, friends were planning to celebrate her birthday a day early. They made arrangements to meet at the house of Yeong-mi, a friend whose family ran a local restaurant.

On her way to the party, Hyo-sun stopped at the house of her friend Mi-seon, also 14. The restaurant was about 30 minutes away along Rural Road 56. As they always did when going to and from school, the girls walked side by side along the edge of the two-lane road.

Also traveling along the road were armored vehicles that had left their training site in the village of Mugeon in nearby Paju. They were heading to a training site in Deokdo Village near Hyochon.

At around 10:45 am, the two girls had ascended an uphill road curving to the left when they were hit by two armored vehicles driven by USFK personnel. Together, the two vehicles were more than wide enough to cover the shoulder of the road. Hyo-sun and Mi-seon’s short lives came to end just 300 meters short of Yeong-mi’s family’s restaurant.

Another item, this time on the 20th anniversary of the two girls’ deaths.  (This is not an known news source so its quality is questionable.)

Hyo-sun and Mi-seon 20th anniversary rally for ‘US Army armored vehicle sacrifice’… “opposition to base war on the Korean Peninsula”

A rally was held in downtown Seoul today to commemorate Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-seon, middle school girls who were hit by an American armored car in 2002.

The Confederation of Trade Unions held a workers’ convention at Sejong-daero in Jung-gu, Seoul around 3 pm on the same day to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hyo-sun and Mi-sun, and argued for the re-establishment of unequal Korea-U.

“Today, 20 years after the Hyo-sun and Mi-sun incidents, peace in Northeast Asia, including the Korean Peninsula, is facing a more serious crisis than ever,” said Yang Kyung-soo, chairman of the KCTU.

“Let’s start the struggle to stop the runaway of the Yun Seok-yeol administration, which sympathizes with the U.S. strategy of establishing an outpost on the Korean Peninsula, and to demand the re-establishment of unequal Korea-U.S. relations,” he said.

The Hyo-sun and Mi-seon incident occurred on June 13, 2002, on a national highway in Yangju-si, Gyeonggi-do, where Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-sun, who were in their second year of middle school at the time, were hit and killed by an American armored vehicle.

The acquittal of the American soldier who drove the vehicle at the time drew public outrage, which later led to a nationwide candlelight vigil.

The removal of the US military base in Yongsan is nearing completion.  The base had been there since the 1950s, but the 2002 murders of Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-seon played a huge role in its removal.

There have been calls by many in Japan for the removal of military bases.  One has to wonder if the two deaths Alkonis caused will accelerate this.

Kyu Sakamoto’s 1963 #1 hit “Sukiyaki” was actually titled “Ue o Muite Arukou” (I Look Up As I Walk).  Most misinterpret it as a song about a lost love, the narrator crying as he walks.

He was walking home from the failed Anpo Protests of 1959 and 1960 against the US military presence in Japan.  This was a subtle and subversive protest song hidden beneath a beautiful melody.



  1. says

    The US Military is (are?) guests in Japan (and elsewhere).

    They aren’t very good guests, though. Because when you are in someone else’s home (or country), you follow the house (local) rules. And they’re just… not doing that. At all. They’re like the MIL that moves in “just for a week”, is still there years later, and ignores all the rules to do things her way, even though her way completely disrupts the entire household.

    Frankly, I’d have kicked them out after the first incident, but that’s me and my low tolerance for shitty guests.

    • says

      The “status of forces agreements” (SOFA) that the US armtwists countries to sign are usually awful, but the one that applied in Iraq gave the US military near immunity to any crimes perpetrated in Iraq. Any Iraqi who wanted to take legal action against an american would have to travel to the US and fight it in court there.

      I doubt any ever did, despite the atrocities the US committed. Mostly because the victims and their families couldn’t afford the trip and the cost of lawyers, but likely also being denied entry into the US if they applied for a visa.


  2. Allison says

    The US Military is (are?) guests in Japan (and elsewhere).

    They are “guests” in the same sense that Russian troops in Warsaw Pact countries were “guests.”

    Given the US’s economic and military power and their propensity for bullying anyone who doesn’t go along with what they want, up to and including “regime change,” it is understandable that the host countries would be cautious in whether and how they would go about disinviting the US military.

    • says

      See also: China’s “belt and road” which is more “ball and chain”. China “loaned” money, put countries into onerous debts (see: Sri Lanka), then forced them to let China set up military bases in their countries. China is looking to control the Indian Ocean with multiple bases and control worldwide shipping between Asia and Europe.