The Korea Herald

ssg
피터빈트

US ups ante, sends furlough notice to S. Korean workers

By Choi Si-young

Published : Jan. 29, 2020 - 16:07

    • Link copied

(123rf) (123rf)
The US military said it has started notifying nearly 9,000 South Koreans working for United States Forces Korea that they could be put on unpaid leave if Seoul and Washington fail to agree on cost-sharing for the upkeep of 28,500 American troops here.

“USFK began providing Korean national employees today with a 60-day notice of a potential administrative furlough that could occur on April 1, 2020,” USFK said Wednesday. It noted that the military was bound by US law to deliver the notice two months in advance of the furlough date.

Korea and the US have held six rounds of talks on defense cost-sharing, but they have been unable to narrow differences over Washington’s demand that Seoul contribute dramatically more this year than before. The US asked for $5 billion a year, five times more than what Korea paid last year. 

Jeong Eun-bo, Seoul's top negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with Washington, speaks to reporters on Jan. 17 after the sixth round of talks held in the US. (Yonhap) Jeong Eun-bo, Seoul's top negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with Washington, speaks to reporters on Jan. 17 after the sixth round of talks held in the US. (Yonhap)
Seoul officials said that demand goes beyond the existing agreement’s framework, but US President Donald Trump criticized Korea for not bearing a greater burden of the entire defense costs to maintain US troops. About 70 percent of Korea’s contribution covers salaries of the Korean workers for their noncombat services.

“Without the Republic of Korea’s continued commitment to share the cost of employing our Korean national workforce, USFK will soon exhaust programmed funds available to pay their salaries and wages,” USFK said, adding it will host meeting to provide Korean workers with information regarding their leave.

The secretary general of the Korean workers’ union said the workers will stand ready to work regardless of their leave because a fully functioning USFK is not just public service but key to security in the Korean Peninsula.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)