SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea reported 'no serious problems' after lifting a curfew in force throughout the nation since the end of World War II and the crime rate in the capital dropped nearly 40 percent.
The midnight-to-4 a.m. curfew ended in most of the country midnight Tuesday except for the area along the 151-mile border with communist North Korea and in security-sensitive coastal areas.
'We seem to have a good start,' said Seoul Mayor Park Young-Soo, after a tour of the city. 'We had a quiet night and I hear no serious problems resulted from the lifting of the curfew.'
Police said the crime rate in the metropolitan area dropped nearly 40 percent, with only one attempted taxi robbery and 200 minor offenses reported during the night.
Police reported no serious crimes or accidents in other parts of the country, free of the curfew first imposed by U.S. occupation forces three weeks after Korea's liberation from Japanese rule in 1945.
'We think the abolition of curfew was highly successful,' said a national police spokesman. 'People spent the night in a law-abiding manner and with due respect to order.'
Police pulled barricades aside at midnight in Seoul but traffic was light and the number of people on the streets decreased sharply as the usual hour of the curfew neared.
Some drinking spots in downtown Seoul planned to stay open until dawn but most shut down before midnight because they had fewer customers than expected.
Abolition of curfew was part of President Chun Doo Hwan's continuing liberalization program. In announcing its removal, Chun said Koreans are 'mature' enough to go without the time restrictions.
Curfew hours were first enforced Sept. 8, 1945 by the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who took control of the southern part of the Korean peninsula after World War II. The northern half was taken over by a communist regime.
The curfew was expanded during the Korean War, but was shortened to midnight-to-4 a.m. in 1955.