Insurance agreement reached in S. Korea
July 25, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The South Korean Justice Ministry has agreed to consider the U.S. government’s position on Korean nationals driving official vehicles.
That position is local national employees essentially have car insurance when they drive U.S. government vehicles, according to a statement released by U.S. Forces Korea.
In the past, there were cases when South Korean base employees who drive official vehicles were not recognized as having proper insurance, said Lee Ferguson, USFK spokeswoman. Drivers must have liability insurance under South Korean law.
The agreement, signed July 1, between the U.S. government and the Justice Ministry is a legally binding subordinate to the status of forces agreement — the code of rules dictating how the U.S. military and South Korean government interact.
But the agreement — which has not been released publicly — is vaguely worded and leaves some doubt about whether South Korean employees will be exempt from prosecution.
A South Korean government official said that doesn’t mean uninsured Koreans will be prosecuted automatically. It would depend upon how the South Korean legal system views a given case, the official said.
But South Korean law doesn’t recognize the U.S. government’s claims system as insurance, said Kwon Chong-hoon, a prosecutor with the Justice Ministry’s 4th prosecution office. Legally, U.S. government vehicles are not considered insured.
The Justice Ministry knows victims can get some compensation from the U.S. government, but that’s different from insurance, Kwon said.
USFK has heard anecdotal stories of South Korean drivers encountering difficulties after an accident over the insurance issue, Ferguson said.
“Both sides agreed to cooperate to ensure claims are processed as quickly as possible,” a USFK statement read. “Korean authorities agreed to fully consider the application of the U.S. government compensation system in determinations of arrest, requests for detention warrants and release of drivers.”
Claims against the U.S. government are filed with the South Korean government and then passed along to district compensation committees. The committee determines the payment and negotiates with USFK, and payments are made to victims.
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.