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SEOUL — Union leaders representing Korean workers at U.S. bases warned this week that the union’s members may strike unless both South Korean and U.S. officials reconsider a financial agreement that could cut 1,000 Korean jobs, a union leader said Monday.

Kang In-shik, head of the 18,200-member Korean Employees Union, said Monday he’d contacted both governments since Friday, when the U.S. military announced the possibility of layoffs. The announcement came after South Korea had been resisting U.S. attempts to increase what South Korea contributes toward maintaining U.S. military installations here.

Kang said he has asked both governments to reconsider their positions, which come as they’re negotiating this year’s “burden-sharing” costs. Kang said he also is gauging reaction among the union’s members to see whether they really are willing to walk out.

On Monday, he said reaction strongly favored a strike, if necessary.

On Friday, Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell said the Koreans’ proposal for this year’s costs would create a “shortfall” in part of U.S. Forces Korea’s overall budget. Other changes could include canceling 20 percent of existing contracts with local Korean businesses and cuts in spending on military equipment and services, Campbell said Friday.

Campbell also stressed the cuts, if necessary, would not affect U.S. troop strength or jeopardize safety throughout the country.

Monday, Kang expressed concern that the 1,000 Korean jobs, which are spread around South Korea, ultimately could have a worrisome impact on security.

He said he met with some of Campbell’s staff Monday afternoon to voice his displeasure. USFK’s public affairs office confirmed the meeting but did not comment further.

Last year, the Koreans paid $621.7 million toward the $1.2 billion annual USFK budget, according to the USFK Fact Book.

The United States has said it would like the Koreans’ contribution to increase, bringing the share more in line with what other countries pay for U.S. military services. To date, the Koreans have balked, saying that USFK’s plans to downsize its troops by one-third should lessen the costs.

Both sides have agreed to a tentative financial arrangement, though neither government will disclose exactly what the final numbers are.


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