The Department of Defense has accepted the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) proposal to fund the labor costs for all U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Korean National (KN) employees through the end of 2020.
The lapse of last year’s 10th Special Measures Agreement (SMA), in which the Republic of Korea partially shared the burden of stationing U.S. Forces on the peninsula, and the continued absence of a subsequent agreement, resulted in more than 4,000 Korean National employees being furloughed.
USFK expects all KN employees to return to work no later than mid-June.
In March, prior to the partial furlough, the DoD funded critical logistics contracts and partially funded KN labor to mitigate some of the risk associated with a complete furlough. This enabled USFK to accomplish their mission to maintain a robust combined defense posture.
Since the last SMA lapsed on 31 December 2019, the United States has unilaterally shouldered the burden for all costs associated with U.S. Forces in Korea. These include KN labor costs, logistics contracts, and construction project design and oversight costs. Today’s decision will provide over $200M in ROK funding for USFK’s entire KN workforce through the end of 2020. Additionally, it is a direct reflection of the United States’ commitment to readiness, to our Korean employees, and to the Alliance – “the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”
This decision enables a more equitable sharing of the KN employee labor burden by the ROK and the U.S. More importantly, it sustains the Alliance’s number one priority – our combined defense posture.
In regards to the lapsed SMA, the Department of Defense believes that equitable burden-sharing between the governments of the United States and the Republic of Korea is in the best interest of all parties. We strongly encourage our Ally to reach a fair agreement as quickly as possible. The United States has shown considerable flexibility in their approach to the SMA negotiations, and requests that the ROK does the same.
Without an agreed upon SMA, critical defense infrastructure projects will remain suspended, all logistics support contracts for USFK will continue to be paid completely by the U.S., and burden sharing will remain out of balance for an Alliance that values and desires parity. USFK’s mid- and long-term force readiness remains at risk.