Relocation on shaky groundFour years have passed since Korea and the United States agreed to transfer U.S. troops to Pyeongtaek, but the completion date and costs have not been decided yet. The delay of the project is causing damage to affected areas such as Pyeongtaek and Dongducheon.
As the transfer was delayed, the Korean government said in December 2006 it wanted to postpone the transfer from 2008 to four or five years later. The United States strongly refused in the beginning but in the end reluctantly accepted the proposal. In May 2007, a high-ranking U.S. defense official even said it was worrisome that the delay of the transfer of U.S. troops might damage the Korea?U.S. alliance. It was the same in June last year when the Korean government talked about postponing the shift by three additional years.
However, the situation has reversed recently. Seoul proposed to complete the transfer of the Second Division by 2014 but Washington wanted to postpone it to later than 2016. This is related to defense expenditures that Korea provides to the United States annually. Late last year, Seoul and Washington agreed that part of the defense expenditure could be used for the transfer of U.S. troops. Therefore, the longer the transfer takes, the more costs the United States can take from defence expenditures.
This reveals clearly that the two countries made an agreement on the transfer without making detailed plans on who would pay for the job and how.
The behavior of the agency for the transfer of U.S. troops in the Korean Ministry of Defense has been awkward. The body was established only two and a half years ago but now it has its fifth chairman.
Each chairman was in the post for an average of six months. Before they had barely begun to understand their job they were replaced.
One chairman even provoked confusion over how the complex must be built. The new base was decided to be built under a turn-key contract in the beginning. As the agency unsuccessfully tried to change the system, the period of construction was delayed for around a year.
As Seoul will pay for the relocation costs, it should have the right to make orders for building a hospital or a communication center inside the base. But it is said that the right was given to the United States.
Even when a small road is paved in a little town, the job is done more carefully than that.