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S. Korea to increase defense contribution by 13.9% under new deal with U.S. Updated: 2021-03-10 15:02:36 KST

South Korea finally has a new deal with the U.S. on sharing the cost of stationing American troops on the Peninsula.
And today it revealed the details.
Unlike the the last one, this deal is multi-year, and for 2021, Seoul will increase its contribution by almost 14 percent.
For more, we have our foreign affairs ministry correspondent Yoon Jung-min joining us live.
Jung-min, so the talks lasted for more than a year, and now we have the results.

Conn-young, the deal was reached in less than two months under the new Biden administration.
It had been stalled for more than a year under the previous Trump administration.
Now, 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.
That 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.
Seoul's foreign ministry says they tried to reach a deal that would be reasonable and equitable.
Take a listen.

"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 take into account any 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.

Now, it is highly likely that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will travel to Seoul in the coming days.
It's also possible that the deal will be officially signed if and when they come.

Now, we hear that there have been some changes made to improve conditions for Korean nationals working with U.S. Forces Korea?
Tell us about those changes.

Right. To improve their living conditions, more of Seoul's contributions will be spent on the Koreans working with American troops.
Seoul's contributions will 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.
This should help avoid a situation like last year, when Korean workers were put on furlough.

As for meetings of the SMA joint working group,
Seoul and Washington have agreed to hold meetings at the 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.
To take effect, it needs approval by the National Assembly.
The deal was reached in meetings in Washington over the weekend.
As I said before, it took less than two months to reach this deal under the new Biden administration, but it had stalled for over a year under President Trump, who had demanded Seoul pay up to five times more.
Back to you, Conn-young.
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