U.s.-South Korea Special Measures Agreement

« South Korea and the United States have not yet reached an agreement on cost-sharing in the defence field, despite incedered consultations between high-level authorities, » South Korea`s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday. WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Tuesday it had reached an agreement with South Korea on a proposal for Seoul to fund thousands of South Korean peripheral workers at U.S. bases that had been placed on unpaid leave earlier this year. Meanwhile, Seoul has reportedly offered to go up to 10 percent more, but it wants to maintain the framework of the agreement, which covers most of the wages of South Korean workers as well as other logistical and construction costs. Efforts to reach an agreement are also complicated by the upcoming parliamentary elections on 15 April in South Korea, as any agreement must be ratified by the National Assembly. However, the two countries have still not agreed on a broader agreement on cost allocation, which has led workers to get their ass kicked. South Korea and the United States are embroered in a nearly two-year dispute over how much each must pay to support the approximately 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. The ROK`s position is well received by the local public, but almost a non-departure for « real » negotiations.

The confusing presentation of their position in the United States is equally problematic. In December 2019, in Seoul, the chief U.S. negotiator said publicly, « As parties to the agreement, we can amend the agreement if we agree to do it together. This is why the SMA agreement has been updated and modified over the years. This statement, as well as the United States` characterization of its position as an extension of the previous ADM, is misleading because « SMA » is not only an acronym for the « Special Measures Agreement » but for the agreement on specific measures regarding Article 5 of the facilities and territories and the status of U.S. forces in Korea (SOFA) agreement. Article 5 of SOFA deals only with « facilities and areas » for the USFK. The U.S. statement on its position ignores the fact that the United States must recognize that the current negotiations are inconsistent with the original spirit of the ADM in seeking costs beyond « facilities and areas » such as training, equipment and transportation. This disparity gives the government some leeway on legal and procedural issues related to burden-sharing negotiations.

« In the absence of a signed ADM or a related bilateral agreement, the USFK can be … Korean national employees will not begin until April 1. The workers, mainly employed by U.S. bases, were placed on unpaid leave in April, which led to a temporary agreement in June for South Korea to finance about 4,000. Their statements have shattered hopes of reaching a last-minute agreement. South Korea`s chief negotiator said earlier this week that the two sides were close when he called on the military not to attack the unprecedented Furlough. In a statement, the Pentagon said the deal meant South Korea would pay more than $200 million to fund 4,000 South Korean workers by the end of 2020. Although the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have made some progress in negotiating the Exceptional Measures Agreement (SMA), the two sides do not appear ready to engage in meaningful negotiations.