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U.S. military warns S. Korean workers of furlough amid SMA talks

U.S. military warns S. Korean workers of furlough amid SMA talks

Posted January. 30, 2020 08:03,   

Updated January. 30, 2020 08:03


On Wednesday, U.S. Forces Korea notified Korean South Korean employees that they would be placed on unpaid leave from April if Washington and Seoul fail to reach an agreement on defense cost sharing.

This move came after the 11th Special Measures Agreement (SMA) expired at the end of last year as the two countries were unable to reach an agreement. In mid-December last year, Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea and United Nations Command, pressured Seoul by stressing that all activities within the demilitarized zone (DMZ) are under the jurisdiction of the United Nations.

“Without the Republic of Korea’s continued commitment to share the cost of employing our Korean National workforce, U.S. Forces Korea will soon exhaust programmed funds available to pay their salaries and wages,” said U.S. Forces Korea, sending a clear message that South Korean employees will bear the brunt if Seoul rejects the Washington’s demand and drags its feet on SMA deals. In a press conference in November last year, Gen. Robert Abrams emphasized that this was to pay South Korean employees with Korean taxpayers’ money, citing that 75 percent of about 9,200 South Korean employees came from the shared funds.

However, some criticize Washington for using the livelihood of South Korean employees, as “extreme measures” such as reducing or withdrawing U.S. Forces Korea cannot be taken.

Na-Ri Shin journari@donga.com