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U.S. to return 4 USFK bases to S. Korea

Posted December. 12, 2019 07:32,   

Updated December. 12, 2019 07:32


Four military bases of the United States Forces Korea (USFK) are returned to the South Korean government on Wednesday after a long delay since the agreement between South Korea and the U.S. The two countries will begin the return process of the Yongsan Garrison as well.

“The governments came to an agreement on Wednesday at a joint committee meeting of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA),” said the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at a joint briefing session on Wednesday. The four bases returned to the South Korean government are Camp Market in Bupyeong, Incheon; Camps Eagle and Long in Wonju, Gangwon Province; and the Shea Range parcel at Camp Hovey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province. The South Korean government and the USFK began negotiations on the return of the bases since their closure in 2009 to 2011, but their return has been delayed due to the differences between South Korea and the U.S. regarding decontamination costs.

The South Korean government will continue to negotiate with the U.S. about the decontamination cost issue separately from the return of the bases. However, it is predicted that the precedence of South Kora covering decontamination costs will be repeated again with the bases returned first. The South Korean government estimates the decontamination costs for the four military bases at about 110 billion won.

Though the return process for the Yongsan Garrison, whose most of the troops relocated to Pyeongtaek, was initiated, the back-and-forth negotiations on decontamination costs are expected to go on. Some believe that the South Korean government may have proposed to cover the costs in order to reduce the U.S.’ pressure to increase South Korea’s share of defense costs.

Hyo-Ju Son hjson@donga.com