Under the new defense cost-sharing agreement, South Korea will increase its contribution for 2021 by 13.9 percent from last year to over 1 billion U.S. dollars.
Seoul's foreign ministry said the increase includes a 7.4 percent rise in last year's defense budget, as well as a 6.5 percent increase in labor costs for Koreans working with U.S. Forces Korea.
"We negotiated confidently based on objectivity and logic, and maintained the basic framework of the defense cost-sharing agreement. It is notable that no new cost category for "readiness" was created as the U.S. side had strongly demanded."
The updated Special Measures Agreement is effective retroactively from 2020 until 2025, covering last year when there was no deal as negotiations stalled.
From 2022, yearly contributions will be set taking into account the increase in South Korea's defense budget the previous year.
As for Seoul's contribution for 2020, it was agreed to be the same as 2019, excluding some labor costs that have already been paid.
To improve living conditions of Koreans working with American troops, Seoul's contributions will be used to cover more than 87 percent of the total labor costs of the local workforce, instead of the previous 75 percent.
Also, even if there is no deal when this one expires, Korean workers can continue to be paid at a level similar to the previous year, which should help avoid a situation like last year, when Korean workers were put on furlough.
Seoul and Washington have agreed to hold joint working group meetings on the SMA at a director-general level.
Reaffirming the strength of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, Seoul's foreign ministry says it will try to have the deal take effect as soon as possible after concluding the remaining procedures.
The deal was reached in meetings in Washington over the weekend.
The deal was reached in less than two months under the new Biden administration but had stalled for over a year under President Trump, who had demanded Seoul pay up to five times as much as before.
Yoon Jung-min, Arirang News.