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USFK commander's Twitter post draws criticism amid furloughs over tough defense cost talks

All News 10:53 April 03, 2020

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, April 3 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Robert Abrams has drawn criticism over a tweet that appeared to mock South Korea for hastily expecting a deal in defense cost-sharing negotiations between the two countries.

On Thursday evening, Abrams retweeted a dictionary explanation of the traditional Korean idiom "to drink kimchi broth," saying he had just learned the expression "Don't eat your kimchi stew before the time is right," which means "Don't count your chickens before they hatch."

The tweet came after widespread speculation here that Seoul and Washington had reached a tentative agreement in their defense cost negotiations and a deal could be announced this week, which would allow thousands of furloughed South Korean USFK employees to return to work.

U.S. officials in Washington denied South Korean media reports on an impending deal, saying negotiations are ongoing and that President Donald Trump has been clear that "Our allies around the world, including South Korea, can and should contribute more."

It was unclear if Abrams had the defense talks in mind when tweeting the idiom.

But critics said the tweet did not come at the right time.

"It is quite inappropriate for the top military leader to say that at a time when thousands of his people are worried about their daily lives," read a comment posted on a related article by a Korean media outlet Friday, referring to 4,000-5,000 Korean workers put on indefinite furloughs Wednesday.

The idiom usually goes, "Don't eat kimchi broth, as the one with rice cakes doesn't even think of giving you a piece."

"I feel like, my hope for a swift conclusion of the deal was dashed when I saw this Twitter post. It is just heartbreaking, though false hope does not do good to anyone," a Korean worker on unpaid leave said.

A government official said Abrams might have failed to recognize the nuance of the expression or might have been sending a message to the media.

In a message to the furloughed workers Wednesday, Abrams said he regarded them as family, and that the situation is "unfortunate" and "heartbreaking." He vowed to support the workers while doing his part for a deal to end their unpaid leave.

USFK commander's Twitter post draws criticism amid furloughs over tough defense cost talks - 1

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