South Koreans at US military bases are furloughed

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THE COMMANDER did not mince words. Furloughing half of the 9,000 South Koreans who work for the American military forces in the country for an indefinite period was “unthinkable” and “heartbreaking”, General Robert B. Abrams said in a televised address on April 1st. Yet he had to do it. As of this month thousands of local civilians working at American bases across the country will stay at home, unpaid, for the first time in the history of the alliance.

However heartbreaking it may have been for General Abrams, the decision was evidently no longer unthinkable enough for his superiors to avoid it. The local staff looking after the 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea provide a range of services including security, catering and electrical installations. Their wages are covered by an agreement that divvies up the cost of hosting the troops between the two allies. The latest version of the agreement expired at the end of 2019. Three months later...

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