South Korea and the United States are reportedly close to signing a new deal on how much Seoul should pay for the stationing of U.S. troops in the country.
The allies have met 7 times since last September and have continued communicating since their last negotiations two weeks ago.
"South Korea and the U.S. are doing our best so that our defense cost-sharing negotiations can yield mutually beneficial results. We have significantly narrowed our differences and expect to reach a final deal soon."
South Korean media reports say this time, the Special Measures Agreement, or SMA, will be good for several years, most likely five years.
Washington had been demanding Seoul pay 4 billion dollars just for this year, but it's reportedly lowered that amount.
Once they've signed, the South Korean government is expected to work on getting the deal ratified in parliament by May 29th.
In the meantime, starting today, 4-thousand South Korean workers at local U.S. bases have been put on unpaid leave.
The U.S. had said before that it would furlough these workers starting April 1 if a deal were not reached by then.
The South Korean workers' labor union held a press conference at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.
"Putting South Koreans on unpaid leave jeopardizes not only the workers' liveliloods but also the safety of American soldiers and their families. It's now time for the South Korean government to announce realistic assistance policies and protect South Korean workers."
South Korea's defense ministry expressed regret about the furloughs and said it will work with parliament to enact special laws to support the livelihoods of the people affected.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.