SEOUL (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 01st April, 2020) The US Forces Korea (USFK) has sent half of its South Korean personnel on indefinite unpaid leave starting Wednesday in connection with a deadlock in defense cost-sharing talks between the two countries.
"Today, approximately half of the USFK Korean National employee workforce has been furloughed due to a lapse in the Special Measures Agreement," USFK Commander Gen. Robert Abrams said in an address, posted on Twitter.
He called it an "unfortunate day," "unthinkable" and "heartbreak" moment.
Speaking about the furloughed employees, the commander stressed that the decision was "in no way a reflection of their performance, dedication or conduct." According to Abrams, these people are vital to the mission, and the latter will "miss them dearly."
"We will continue to emphasize the need for an agreed upon SMA to both the ROK and US governments in order to end the partial furlough," he added.
Since 1991, Seoul has been shouldering part of the costs for stationing US troops in South Korea per the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), which is renewed regularly. The most recent agreement expired on December 31, but the two countries are still struggling to negotiate a new deal, as US President Donald Trump has on multiple occasions demanded that Seoul pay more.
The furlough is expected to affect some 5,000 of South Koreans working for the USFK.