By Jung Sung-ki
South Korea's financial burden sharing for a multi-billion dollar project to relocate U.S. military facilities is expected to reach some 9 trillion won ($8.8 billion), a figure far higher than the originally estimated 5.6 trillion won, a report said Sunday.
Citing a Defense Ministry audit, Yonhap News Agency attributed the increase to state subsidies set aside to compensate residents in the Pyeongtaek area ― where a consolidated U.S. military facility is to be built ― expenditures for environmental cleanups at returned U.S. base sites and additional construction costs. The increase also reflects soaring prices for oil and construction materials, according to the document.
A Defense Ministry official, however, dismissed the report, saying a detailed share for the base relocation program has not been drawn up yet.
Last year, Seoul and Washington agreed on a master plan for the estimated $11-billion project under which South Korea was to pay about 5.6 trillion won.
Under a 2004 land-swap pact, the United States is required to return 170 square kilometers of land ― housing 42 military bases and firing ranges ― across the country by 2011. In return, Seoul is required to offer 12 square kilometers of land to help triple the size of Camp Humphreys to some 15 square kilometers housing 500 buildings.
The expanded Camp Humphreys, located 70 kilometers south of Seoul, will accommodate more than 44,000 U.S. servicemen, their families, base workers and South Korean reinforcements, according to the master plan.
About 27,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. The two Koreas are still technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.