USFK, S. Korea rework SOFA’s claims process
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea - U.S. Forces Korea and the South Korean government have reached new agreements on processing noise complaints and minor claims resulting from on-duty military maneuvers, officials said Friday.
The announcements came after a day of meetings between the Status of Forces Agreement Joint Committee, a body that has met 183 times to fine-tune the treaty under which U.S. forces are governed overseas.
According to a USFK press release, the meetings were co-chaired by USFK deputy commander Lt. Gen. Garry R. Trexler and Kim Sook, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s North American Affairs Bureau.
The first agreement signed Friday established a Noise Complaints and Damage Claims Prevention Joint Working Group. In recent months, at least two citizens groups have won lawsuits in South Korea courts claiming noise damage from jet missions.
So far, all of the damages have been awarded against the South Korean government.
The second agreement Friday streamlined the paying of minor claims for damage caused during official duty of U.S. troops. According to the USFK release, a new system will speed the processing time for claims under 4,000,000 won, or around $3,500.
Officials now say those claims will now be handled within two weeks.
Both South Korean and U.S. officials also touted the meetings as part of ongoing adjustments to the SOFA, which many South Koreans have decried as unfair in the past.
Since the 2002 incident in which U.S. armored vehicle operators ran over and killed two young South Korean schoolgirls, several changes have gone into effect, officials said. The most concrete result of those changes have been more than 1,600 traffic control points established by Korean National Police during U.S. troop maneuvers and 1,200 convoy escorts.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries have also conducted 37 joint safety investigations or consultations, officials said.