Two Secret Service agents assigned to prepare for President Joe Biden’s visit to South Korea were sent home after a night on the town ended in a physical confrontation with South Korean nationals, reports said.
The exact details of what happened were not immediately clear. However, reports from multiple outlets — based largely on anonymous sources — offer a rough outline of the events in question.
The incident occurred early Thursday morning, at about 4:20 a.m. local time, NBC News reported, citing South Korean police.
“According to a source familiar with the matter, a group of Secret Service employees went out to dinner in Seoul this week. After dinner, a small group broke off and visited multiple bars. When the two employees — one special agent and one physical security specialist — returned from the night out, one of the employees got into an altercation with a cab driver and two Korean nationals, resulting in a police response,” according to CNN.
“Both employees were armed but were not part of the President’s advance team — the presidential detail that travels ahead of the president,” the outlet added. “The employees involved in the incident were responsible for physical security preparations and logistical planning, the source said.”
An anonymous U.S. official told The Washington Post that the dispute occurred after one of the Secret Service staffers had returned to his hotel room.
“The other, the official said, got into an argument with the taxi driver and two Korean citizens who apparently were trying to enter the vehicle. The precise nature of the dispute could not be learned,” the outlet reported.
“Hotel security officers then got involved, and police were summoned to investigate a possible assault, the official said. The Secret Service officer was allowed to return to his room, but he was questioned by local police later that morning.”
Neither staffer was arrested or charged with a crime, the official added.
South Korean police, however, did confirm that they were investigating the incident.
“We have launched an investigation involving a member of President Biden’s security team member and a South Korean man,” Choi Eul-chan, the Yongsan Police Station’s director of the detective division, told NBC.
“He pushed the Korean man once. The Korean man made the police report immediately following the incident. He demanded that the security person be punished for assaulting him,” Choi added.
Only one of the Secret Service employees was being investigated by South Korean police, a law enforcement source told NBC.
In a statement, Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said both employees had been placed on administrative leave.
“The Secret Service is aware of an off-duty incident involving two employees which may constitute potential policy violations,” Guglielmi told ABC News. “The individuals will be immediately returned back to their post of duty and placed on administrative leave.
“There was no impact to the upcoming trip. We have very strict protocols and policies for all employees and we hold ourselves to the highest professional standards. Given this is an active administrative personnel matter, we are not in a position to comment further.”
Biden arrived in South Korea on Friday, the same day both Secret Service employees were sent home, according to NBC.