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SEOUL — After more than four months on the job, the security firm protecting U.S. bases in South Korea still has not hired the number of guards required by its contract with the U.S. military, but it has hired enough that gates are operating normally.

G4S took over gate security at most U.S. Army installations on the peninsula on Dec. 1. Most guards who worked for the previous security provider, Joeun Systems Corp., refused to work for the new firm, claiming the company was offering lower pay and longer hours.

Because G4S didn’t have sufficient manpower, the military was forced to close or limit hours at some gates and, until March 23, have soldiers temporarily staff some gates.

G4S still needs to hire between 80 and 100 guards to meet its quota of 600-plus guards, a level it hopes to reach later this month, spokesman Steven Chon said last week.

He said the security of USFK bases has not been at risk despite the shortage of guards, and said G4S was “very apologetic” for inconveniences caused in recent months.

“We’re very proud that the quality (of services) hasn’t gone down, even though we had a shortage of people,” he said.

Despite the problems, the U.S. military said there are no plans to terminate its contract with the company.

“We consider this matter closed,” 8th Army spokesman Lt. Col. Andrew Mutter said in an email to Stars and Stripes.

“The safety and security of our installations, soldiers, civilians, family members, and those who live and work on those installations is our number one concern. The government has confidence in their ability to execute this very important mission,” he said.

Many of the approximately 820 guards who worked for Joeun have protested outside U.S. Forces Korea bases several times a week since the labor dispute began. Last month, the Gyeonggi Province Labor Relations Commission ruled against a group of 397 former Joeun guards alleging unfair labor practices and illegal firing by G4S.

Chon said that since the dismissal of the petition, hiring of the former Joeun guards has increased, with two or three signing with G4S each day. As of last week, 259 former Joeun guards are working for G4S, he said.

G4S has not been asked to pay any fines for failing to meet the terms of its contract, Chon said.

When asked about possible penalties for G4S, Mutter said “the government is evaluating its options to recover costs associated with soldiers manning gates.”

While most entry gates have reopened and have returned to normal operating hours, a handful — most in Area II — now have permanently limited hours. Military officials say the change was made because those gates have little traffic on evenings and weekends and is unrelated to the security guard shortage.

Stars and Stripes’ Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

rowland@pstripes.osd.mil

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