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‘What about us?’ Korean base workers complain

June 17,2004
As talks about reductions of U.S. troop levels in Korea intensify, another constituency is clamoring to be heard: the thousands of Koreans now employed at American military bases here.
The USFK Korean Employees Union, which represents many of the 18,000 Korean employees on the bases, said yesterday that it planned a nationwide protest to get the Roh administration’s ear.
The union says that despite its repeated demands for a hearing sent to the Blue House and other government agencies, the only result so far has been a brief hearing Wednesday that came to no conclusions and set no course to deal with the layoffs that would probably accompany an American reduction in force here.
The union wants its issues to be a formal part of the bilateral government-to-government negotiations on the issue with the United States as well.
The first few layoffs have come already. The U.S. command has told eight employees at a club inside the Joint Security Area at Panmunjeom that they will receive pink slips in July and August.
Thirty-three employees at a military club at Dongducheon, Gyeonggi province, will be laid off in November, union officials added.
The union estimated that a reduction of U.S. forces here by a third, as the United States plans, would mean job losses for 5,000-8,000 Koreans.
“Most of the employees receive 70 percent of their pay from the Korean government and can be viewed as quasi-public servants. The government must come up with a support plan for those who will lose their jobs just as it did when it privatized public companies,” said Mun Young-bae, an official of the union’s Paju chapter.


by Lee Sang-eon


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