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SEOUL — The State Department feels your pain.

Civilian employees of the U.S. government posted to South Korea will get a raise from the State Department starting next month.

U.S. government civilians will get post differential, a payment made when overseas assignments have harsher conditions than conditions in the United States.

The raise amounts to 5 percent of base pay and is taxable, said Jim Forbes, the U.S. Embassy’s minister and counselor for administrative affairs. For example: A civilian employee making $44,000 a year would receive a post differential of $2,200.

The embassy applied for the raise earlier this year “because we thought our people would deserve it,” Forbes said. U.S. Forces Korea also provided information for the post differential application.

“Everybody is happy to get more money,” Forbes said.

Post differential can range up to 25 percent, increasing at 5 percent increments, Forbes said. The rate is evaluated periodically, and the embassy must update its information yearly.

The 5 percent rate should stay in effect for at least a year, Forbes said.

The State Department looks at 150 factors in 15 categories to make the determination, Forbes said. Those factors include isolation, housing conditions, availability of English speakers, recreation and entertainment.

Compared with other Asian countries such as the Philippines or Hong Kong, the use of English is more limited in South Korea. Forbes said embassy employees study Korean for two years before working in the country, while language training is shorter for other countries, he said.

Post differentials took effect April 6, but the change is still being processed, said Young-ah Outten, travel and allowance assistant for U.S. Forces Korea. Money retroactive to that date should be in paychecks by the end of next month. If people don’t see the post differential in their paycheck by that time, they should contact Outten at 738-6843.

The money is also an incentive to draw people to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Forbes said. The embassy has had difficulty filling positions, he said.


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