Cleanup at U.S. base in focus

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Cleanup at U.S. base in focus

A local court ordered the government yesterday to release pollution data on a U.S. military base that is subject to negotiations for cleanup costs before its return to South Korea.

The Busan Federation for Environmental Movement had filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment, demanding it release results of environmental studies for public monitoring on Camp Hialeah, located in the southern port city of Busan. The governments of South Korea and the U.S. had conducted two on-site inspections to measure the level of pollution around the military facility, but refused to disclose the outcomes.

Suspected of heavy contamination from oil and other chemicals, the cost-sharing for the cleanup has been a sensitive issue for the two countries. The case also weighs on the U.S., as it could set a precedent for its responsibilities in other nations where its troops are deployed.

Some 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.

Camp Hialeah opened in September 1950, and the U.S. decided in 2002 to return the base grounds to South Korea as part of a global realignment of its forces.

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs the legal status of American servicemen and their families, states the U.S. is to be held responsible for any contamination.

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