USFK employees to face pay delay

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USFK employees to face pay delay

Around 9,000 Korean workers may be subject to furloughs without pay due to delays over a cost-sharing deal between Korea and the United States.

In a post to its Facebook page on Friday, Camp Humphreys said to “expect possible delays to installation services” due to a lapse in the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) with Korea and the “implementation of austerity measures” to the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), which includes “cessation of overtime pay for Korean National employees, USAG Humphreys will experience some delays to certain installation services, most notably post office hours and after-hours work performed by the Directorate of Public Works.”

The SMA refers to the cost-sharing deal renegotiated by Korea and the United States every year on the upkeep of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed on Korean soil.

The negotiations for this year’s SMA have been heavily delayed due to intense disagreements between the allies over U.S. President Donald Trump’s reported demand for a major hike in Korea’s cost burden, from around $870 million to $5 billion.

Negotiations between the two sides failed to reach a compromise despite six different meetings, but recent signals from U.S. officials and the Korean Foreign Ministry suggest Washington has softened its demands somewhat to reach an agreement.

Seoul insists it will only accept a 10 percent increase from its current share, stressing that it made a variety of other contributions to the alliance through actions like weapons acquisitions from the United States or the construction of Camp Humphreys, the U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, of which it paid for in its entirety.

The problem is that last year’s SMA has already expired, and the USFK has been relying on residual funds to pay Korean workers who maintain and work at Camp Humphreys.

Around 9,000 Korean workers are employed by the base, whose salaries are covered 70 percent by the Korean government and 30 percent by the United States, as per the SMA.

U.S. Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris on Jan. 16, while urging Seoul to agree to an increase in its burden, said the USFK was in the process to “minimize the impact on Korean workers,” suggesting Korean workers would be affected by the delay in reaching a deal on this year’s SMA.

According to Bloomberg, the United States is warning it could send furlough notices to the 9,000 workers, depriving them of pay until a deal is reached and in turn putting pressure on the Korean government.

The allies’ negotiators are reportedly aiming to reach a deal by next month. February may be the deadline for the deal to be ratified by the current Korean National Assembly, since a new legislature is set to take office following the general elections on April 15.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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