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SEOUL — A South Korean congressman is calling for a new compensation payment formula for when on-duty U.S. servicemembers accidently cause property damage or hurt people.

Assembly member Im Jong-in says South Korea shouldn’t have to pay a quarter of the annual bill, which in the past three years has averaged about $2 million in payments for damaged crops, wrecked cars, personal injury and death.

The current formula calls for South Korea to pay 25 percent and the United States to pay the remainder. That adds up to about 470 million won each year, or about $501,600, according to Kim Je-dong, Im’s top aide.

In the past three years, both governments have paid out money in 348 cases, according to Im’s office.

But the South Korean government sets the reimbursement amounts, according to an interview with the commander of the U.S. Armed Forces Claims Service, Korea. Military officials through U.S. Forces Korea’s public affairs office declined an interview for this story.

All damage claims must be submitted through the South Korean government, which has 14 compensation committees throughout the country, Lt. Col. Timothy M. Connelly told Stars and Stripes last year.

Those committees adjudicate the claims process, though USFK staff works with them to collect photos and witness statements that help describe the damage. Most claims stem from traffic accidents or property damage from military vehicles or helicopters.

In the end, the South Korean governmental committees determine the payment, which in most cases is split by the 25/75 percent formula. If the case stems from a joint South Korean-U.S. training exercise, then the cost is split evenly.

Im, a member of the majority ruling party, said in late October that the cost is too burdensome for the U.S. military’s host nation. When two South Korean school girls were killed in 2002 in Uijeonbu, each family received 140 million won, almost $150,000 in today’s dollars. The South Korean portion of that payment was 30 million won, or $32,000.

Im, an Assembly Legislation and Judiciary Committee member, has no formal proposal but said he hopes his complaints will prompt officials to revisit the formula, which is defined in the current U.S.-South Korea Status of Forces Agreement.


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