South Korean company is paying twice for Camp Humphreys project services
Stars and Stripes March 3, 2008
SEOUL — The South Korean company in charge of a nearly $30 million landfill project at Camp Humphreys is paying twice for the same services provided by its subcontractors.
Seohee Construction Co. Ltd. was awarded the $29.7 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District contract to prepare 203.6 acres outside Humphreys for an expansion of the base.
Seohee hired subcontractor Jinsung Industrial Development, and paid that company about $3.2 million for work on the project from January 2007 to October 2007, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Far East District spokesman Joe Campbell said Saturday.
“Jinsung walked away from their contact with Seohee in October 2007,” according to a news release from Campbell.
When 67 different subcontractors hired by Jinsung — ranging from individual shopkeepers to whole companies — came forward to claim they were never paid, Seohee began repaying for some of the work, according the news release.
Seohee provided documentation Friday that proved it had originally paid Jinsung, according to the release.
And, “Seohee provided FED proof that they settled with 34 of the unpaid Jinsung contractors whom they consider unfortunate victims of circumstance, and that they are in the process of settling with 15 companies,” the release said. “The remaining 18 companies were determined by Seohee to be ineligible for settlement.”
The issue came to light when 23 South Koreans gathered outside the FED compound in Seoul on Thursday to protest what they say is USFK’s mismanagement of its contractors on the Humphreys project.
One man, Ahn Byeong-chul, said Jinsung owed him nearly $150,000 for the gasoline he pumped into their construction vehicles.
Another, Lee Young-wan, said Jinsung owes his convenience store about $2,800.
The group claims Jinsung owes them nearly $750,000 in total and some members have been forced to take out high-interest bank loans or borrow from loan sharks because they haven’t been paid.
“USFK says they came here to protect us. And USFK’s top men are always saying Katchi kapshida (We go together.),” Ahn told Stripes on Thursday. “But I feel they are going just their own way, and we are left out.”
Campbell could not say Saturday how much Seohee has paid the 34 contractors who they’ve compensated.
He did say, however, say that Seohee was aware some of those protesting on Thursday were among the 18 entities considered ineligible for settlement.
Campbell said they included people who provided snacks, office equipment and office supplies, among others.
According to the release, the FED has “promptly paid Seohee for all work completed to date and will continue to make their payments promptly.”
It also added that the U.S. government cannot force a contractor to pay twice for the same services.
“Therefore, Jinsung’s unpaid obligations are not the responsibility of the U.S. government and need to be addressed through the Korean legal system,” according to the release.
Jinsung officials have not returned repeated phone calls.
Humphreys is scheduled to triple in size in coming years, as the U.S. military shifts all personnel in and north of Seoul to the southern half of the peninsula by 2012.