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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea paid about $325,000 in back utility payments for water-use charges dating from September 2002 to July 2003, South Korean officials said Friday.

“The back payments were imposed in their August bill, and I understand they already paid in full,” Shim Hyun-il, of South Korea’s Environment Ministry, said of USFK.

Civic groups have complained about USFK payment levels since September 2002, said South Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary Lee Jun-ho.

An agreement was reached in early July that USFK will pay water-use charges starting in August. It also mandated USFK will make back utility payments for water-use charges from September 2002.

Water-use charges, levied with the water bill, first were introduced in South Korea in September 1999 to maintain water quality, prevent pollution and protect residents living near the Han, Kum, Yongsan and Nakdong rivers, Shim said.

The negotiations focused on the water-use charge, Shim said.

“The point of contention was if it is a tax or not, and how much back payment they are willing to pay,” said Shim. Under the Status of Forces Agreement, the U.S. Army is not required to pay taxes to South Korea’s government.

“We finally made a compromise through the July talk, and successfully made the U.S. party realize how important it is to invest in our efforts for a better environment,” Shim said.

Shim estimates USFK is expected to pay about $417,000 annually for water-use charges, which are based on the amount of water used, ranging from 8 cents to 10 cents per ton.

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