S. Korea, U.S. Agree to Make Public Non-confidential Info Related to USFK | Be Korea-savvy

S. Korea, U.S. Agree to Make Public Non-confidential Info Related to USFK

The U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul.  (image: Public Domain)

The U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul.
(image: Public Domain)

SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Korea Bizwire)In a major step to enhance transparency in American forces stationed here, South Korea and the United States agreed on Tuesday to make public any non-confidential information they have in relation to the United States Forces Korea.

“The Joint Committee discussed cooperative efforts to further enhance transparency of SOFA-related affairs with the Korean public,” the allies said in a joint press release following the 198th joint committee meeting of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) earlier in the day.

SOFA is a bilateral agreement detailing the legal terms for the U.S. stationing of some 28,000 troops in South Korea.

“The Joint Committee agreed to cooperate in every possible way to disclose non-confidential information related to SOFA implementation agreements to enhance public awareness and use well-established SOFA procedures,” according to the joint release.

Each year, the allies produce about 100 documented agreements and they will all be made available for public view except those that are classified as military secrets or have special reason for nondisclosure, a ranking ministry official said.

The latest agreement came amid increasing local civil demand for more transparency in matters related to the USFK’s more than six-decade stationing in the South against potential North Korean aggression.

Claiming the public right to know, two civil rights groups have filed an administrative litigation, demanding the defense minister disclose details of the South Korea-U.S. negotiations leading to the deployment of the American defense system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense in South Korea.

The Seoul Administrative Court, however, dismissed the civic groups’ suit, saying the information is classified.

Environmental pollution at American military bases in South Korea has also led to increased calls for public access to USFK-related information.

“The Joint Committee recognized concerns for environmental protection and decided to continue constructive consultation on environmental issues related to USFK installations,” the joint release also said.

Also discussed in the Tuesday meeting were South Korea’s planned measures to provide support to victims of criminal acts involving USFK personnel.

“The two representatives agreed to continue efforts in the prevention of crime and welcomed the continued partnership of USFK and ROK government agencies in minimizing incidents involving USFK personnel,” according to the joint document.

The Korean side of the meeting was headed by Director General Cho Koo-rae of the foreign ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau with the U.S. represented by Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, USFK deputy commander.

“The two representatives pledged to continue cooperative efforts to further strengthen the unwavering alliance as well as ROK-US bilateral relations, maintain a stable stationing environment for U.S. forces, and enhance public safety and welfare,” it also said.


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