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USFK completes sorting out Korean employees to be excluded from potential furlough

Defense 15:28 March 19, 2020

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Thursday it has completed sorting out South Korean employees providing essential duties to be excluded from a potential furlough in case Seoul and Washington fail to work out a defense cost-sharing deal in time.

USFK has warned that some of its 9,000 Korean workers could be forced to go on unpaid leave starting in April should Seoul and Washington fail to reach a deal on the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that regulates their sharing of the upkeep of the 28,500-strong USFK on Korean soil.

"USFK has completed its Partial Furlough Implementation Process analysis for Korean National employees who will be retained to provide life, health, safety and readiness services," USFK said in a release, adding that it is reviewing the results with the union of the Korean employees.

"Unfortunately, should US-ROK SMA negotiations fail to reach an agreement, USFK will soon be required to distribute furlough notification letters to those Korean employees subject to a furlough," it said.

The military did not elaborate on how many workers will be subject to the leave. Earlier in the day, the vernacular daily Hankook Ilbo reported that around 6,000 employees are likely to be affected.

The two countries wrapped up the second day of their fresh round of negotiations in Los Angeles on Wednesday (local time) and could extend the talks for another day.

The U.S. has revised its initial demand for a fivefold increase of Seoul's financial contribution to some $5 billion. But it is known to currently call for about $4 billion, with Seoul insisting on an increase of about 10 percent.

Seoul's top negotiator Jeong Eun-bo (L) and his U.S. counterpart, James DeHart, pose for a photo prior to the start of their two-day negotiations in Los Angeles on March 17, 2020, in this photo provided by the foreign ministry. Resumed after a two-month hiatus, the talks deal with how much South Korea should pay for stationing the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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