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Discussion of Changes to U.S. SOFA Agreement

Aug 02,2000
It is heartening to hear that Korea and the U.S. have agreed to revise the long-standing Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to the same levels that is applied to U.S. troops stationed in other countries.

For years, Washington had been adhering to its position that there was no difference in the SOFA agreement in Korea and that used in other countries, thus seeing no need for revisions to the accord. However, Song Min-soon, director general of the North American Affairs Bureau at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that this has changed and that the U.S. holds to a different position than that of the past, showing more willingness to negotiate.

Many experts see the negotiations bringing about some welcome results to issues requiring answers like the handover of U.S. servicemen indicted on criminal charges to Korean authorities as well as environmental matters and labor rights of Koreans working on U.S. bases. It is the government officials explanation that the U.S. is conceivable of rising anti-American sentiment among Koreans therefore, shifting to rather alleviated policy.

One government official offered his opinion for the change in the U.S. military's position, saying that the mounting protests against U.S. forces responsible for chemical dumping, disruptive airforce training not to mention evidence implicating the U.S. military in knowingly shooting Korean civilians during the Korean War may have had something to do with the U.S. becoming more pliant.

An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that negotiations on revising the SOFA entails the discussion of detailed items which may give rise to difficulties in arriving at an agreement quickly.

The two parties had discussed legalities in the morning followed by a deliberation of issues about the environment, labor rights, and the further importing of food products by the U.S. military. However, negotiations will probably be restricted to changes in framework, with specifics to be handled at future meetings.

by Lee Chul-hee




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