SEOUL — Beginning Oct. 1, U.S. Forces Korea will require South Koreans to prove they are part of the Good Neighbor Program to renew their guest passes to U.S. military bases.

Approximately 5,100 South Korean guest pass holders will be affected by the peninsula-wide change, which is designed to increase security and eliminate the practice of “buying” passes.

“Our old practice allowed anyone who was a member of a recognized friendship organization to gain access to USFK bases. In some cases, the pass holder was merely someone buying base access through the payment of (an organization’s) membership,” a statement on the policy changes said.

Under the current policy, South Korean organizations can submit the names of members who do community relations work on base and, with military approval, get yearlong passes that allow them to enter bases unescorted.

The new command policy will require South Koreans to document their work in USFK’s Good Neighbor Program and require them to have higher-ranking U.S. military sponsors who know them personally.

Passes will be called “Good Neighbor passes” instead of guest passes.

“It’s based on merit, not just who you are in the Korean community,” said USFK spokesman Col. Frank Childress. “The old regulation does allow for pass abuse.”

He said the number of South Korean guest pass holders may increase under the new policy, a rewrite of an existing regulation that officials began reviewing in late 2006.

“There’s nothing that generated this. It’s just an improvement to the policy,” said USFK spokesman David Oten.

Pass holders can continue to enter base using their current guest passes until they expire, but all South Koreans will be integrated into the new system by Oct. 1, 2008.

The guest passes give South Koreans access to all buildings on base, except those that can be accessed only by ration and identification cards. All guest pass holders will continue to be required to pass background checks.

USFK officials were to contact friendship organizations about the changes beginning next week.

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