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SOFA talks end, another meeting due shortly

Posted December. 11, 2000 23:29,   


Korea and the United States wrapped up 13 days of negotiations aimed at revising the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) Monday, and agreed to hold what they hope will be the last round of talks in Seoul in the near future. As the two sides were still at odds over some knotty issues such as criminal jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers who commit crimes in Korea, it remains unclear whether a final agreement is possible. The SOFA governs the treatment of the roughly 37,000 American soldiers that are stationed in South Korea.

Korean chief delegate Song Min-Soon, director general of the Foreign Affairs-Trade Ministry's North American Affairs Bureau, said after the meeting that the two sides had narrowed their differences in seven areas, namely criminal jurisdiction, environment, labor, quarantine, facilities-areas, quarantine of food items and Non-Appropriated Fund facilities, but that they had failed to reach an accord on a few complicated issues.

Song also said that since the top leaders of the two countries had agreed to conclude the revision talks as soon as possible, delegates would be doing their best to make further progress through continued informal talks between chief delegates.

It was revealed that the two sides had made considerable headway on the environmental clause in the main SOFA stipulations, with the U.S. stepping back from its demand to cover the issue in a separate joint statement, as was done in a similar U.S.-Japan pact.

With regard to criminal jurisdiction over U.S. service members accused of crimes in Korea, the two sides remained at loggerheads, with the U.S. insisting on securing legal guarantees of their rights and Korea underlining the differences between the U.S. and Korean legal systems.