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Pacific edition, Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SEOUL — South Koreans long have had a desire to speak English, and the U.S. military community long has made a healthy tax-free profit teaching the language.

Sought after because of their native language skills, U.S. troops, Department of Defense civilians and family members can earn $30, $40 and even $50 an hour or more depending on whom — and how many — they’re teaching in private classes.

Take a quick walk through a U.S. military base any given weekend and you’re bound to see South Korean kids grouped around tables with Americans, playing card games, working through English textbooks and even singing their ABCs.

U.S. Forces Korea officials, however, said the practice is illegal.

Legal officials declined to speak directly to Stars and Stripes, instead offering a one-word reply to each of a series of questions submitted via e-mail.

When asked whether people under the status of forces agreement could legally teach private classes on a U.S. installation, in their government housing or in government provided off-base housing, the answer to each question was “No.”

A request for additional interviews to clarify the discrepancy between the law and what appears to be a common practice on U.S. bases was declined.

Earlier this year, USFK detailed the process for those seeking official off-base employment with a Korean company.

Most active-duty and DOD civilians cannot legally obtain outside employment, according to USFK. Most family members, however, can obtain a Korean work visa. And a SOFA-status person married to a South Korean citizen can obtain an F-2 visa or permanent resident alien F-5 visa. Both visas allow South Korean employment.

DOD-invited civilian contractors and their family members are not allowed to work off base, according to USFK.

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