Korea to Bear Lion's Share of USFK Move: Bell

U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Burwell Bell U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Burwell Bell

The commander of U.S. Forces Korea has said South Korea will pay the bulk of the costs for relocating USFK headquarters from Yongsan, Seoul to Pyeongtaek in Gyeonggi Province, south of the capital.

General Burwell Bell said Seoul agreed to pay US$7-8 billion out of the entire $10 billion for the relocation. "And already, in that physical process, South Korea has spent about $2 billion in an effort that's going to cost them around $10 billion. It's of the magnitude of the Guam move," Bell told the U.S. House Appropriation Committee on March 12.

However, the costs projected by Bell are controversial, differing hugely from estimates by the Korean Defense Ministry. The ministry has said that the relocation will cost a total of W5.59 trillion (US$1=W997) including W1.01 trillion for the purchase of the land.

In March last year, the ministry in a Pyeongtaek base master plan said the move of all the bases north of the Han river including the Yongsan headquarters will cost W10 trillion, of which South Korea will pay W5.5 trillion for the relocation of U.S. forces in the Yongsan base, while the U.S. will pay W4.5 trillion for moving its Second Division to Pyeongtaek.

Therefore, if Gen. Bell's calculation is right it could fuel suspicions that the previous government reached an under-the-table deal on the relocation with the U.S. But a ministry official denied such speculation, saying Bell apparently included the costs for moving both the Yongsan base and the Second Division. "There was no secret deal," he said.

Bell told the committee, "South Korea agreed to shoulder the majority of the infrastructure expenses associated with moving our forces out of Yongsan Garrison farther south in their country." He said that Korea had demanded the relocation.

Turning to the relocation of the U.S. Second Division, Bell said Korea will share the financial burden for moving the division with the U.S. 50:50. It was the first time that has been made public. Public opposition is expected to spending more Korean taxpayers' money on relocating the U.S. forces.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 17, 2008 09:34 KST