It has been reported that South Korea and the United States will reach an agreement on returning most of the land occupied by 22 United States Forces Korea (USFK) bases. The agreement, which had been made official back in 2003 during the Roh Moo-hyun administration and had made little progress so far, finally appears to be implemented.
According to a government official source on Wednesday, the number of USFK bases agreed to be returned is around 10 bases. Both countries are planning to host a joint SOFA commission meeting this month at the latest to align on the return.
Most of the USFK bases that have not started or still implementing the return have been returned to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek and currently closed. Negotiations on who should cover the environmental costs for soil pollution had staggered, with both sides unable to bridge the differences. Return and transfer of USFK bases go through five stages: Launch return and discuss, negotiate on decontamination, request return, approve and implementation. The U.S. has refused to cover decontamination costs per domestic laws that it shall not pay unless contamination of significant risk to public and natural environment and health.
Given the scale of the return, it is likely that the South Korean government will pay the environmental costs first and discuss the cost-bearing issue with the U.S. government later on. Environmental investigation on four of the USFK bases agreed to be returned last year has been completed, ready for decontamination work scheduled for next year.
Kyu-Jin Shin firstname.lastname@example.org · Gi-Jae Han email@example.com