Seoul, Washington to Hold SOFA Committee Meeting in June

Seoul, May 20 (QNA) – South Korea and the United States plan to hold a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) meeting in June, during which they are expected to mainly discuss the treatment of Korean civilian staff hired by US troops, sources said Tuesday.

The meeting of the SOFA Joint Committee will be held in Seoul next month in a bid to mainly discuss ways to enhance the treatment of some 8,500 Koreans working at US military bases, according to the sources, quoted by state news agency Yonhap.

Both sides may exchange views about the treatment and wages for such Korean workers as they might feel jittery about their job security due to the U.S. forces’ planned base relocation from Yongsan in central Seoul to Pyeongtaek, some 70 kilometers south of Seoul, they added.

SOFA governs the legal status of around 28,500 U.S. soldiers stationed here, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Whether to raise wages for Koreans hired by U.S. troops could be discussed as South Korea will shoulder more labor costs for such workers under a renewed defense-cost sharing pact between the two nations, according to sources.

Under the new deal covering the five-year period from 2014, South Korea is set to pay 920 billion won (US$898.8 million) to United States Forces Korea (USFK) this year, up 5.8 percent from last year.

At the joint SOFA committee meeting in December, South Korea and the U.S. revised the guidelines for the treatment of U.S. forces here following a controversial “handcuffing incident” by American servicemen in 2012.

The revision was made in an effort to better define USFK’s off-base patrol missions and prevent such an incident. (QNA)

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