ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on November 19th, 2012 at 3:19 am

USFK Base Workers Unhappy With Pay

» by in: USFK

If you ever wondered how much the Korean employees you seeing working on US bases make well here is your answer:

A South Korean worker identified by his surname Kang, 57, who works for the US Armed Forces in Korea, was originally assigned chauffeur duties. In reality, he does whatever is asked of him. One day he is put to work cleaning out storage facilities, and the next, he is lugging bags around. Some days he fills sacks with sand for the entire day. “I’ve been working like a slave,” Kang said.Twenty years ago, he was hired as a waiter in a restaurant on the Army Base. But then, 10 years ago, the army unilaterally reassigned him as a chauffeur, and told him he could take it or leave it. Last August, he got another unilateral notification that his hours would be reduced to 20 hours a week from the original 40.

Accordingly, he would lose half of his earnings.“What else can I do? I’m too old to find another job. They [USFK] always say that we are making a living thanks to them so we have to listen,” Kang said angrily.Since 1945, when Korea was liberated from Japanese colonization, US Forces have been stationed on the Korean Peninsula and some Koreans have worked at the US Army Bases. Since then, Korean workers have done odd jobs, including laundry, distribution of food, and facilities repair. Their number currently stands at over 13,000, employed for 240 types of labor.Under Article 17 of the US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement, the Korean workers are protected by Korean labor law, but in reality, they are struggling under the US Army’s one-way labor management. A worker identified by his last name Yu, 54, was hired as a waiter at a restaurant on the Yongsan base 25 years ago, but ended up more like an errand boy. “I did everything that they asked me to do to make a living without an academic background,” said Yu. Even though he has been working there for more than 20 years, his salary tops out at less than 2 million won (US$1,837).It varies depending on duties, the average annual salary of Korean workers of the US Army is around 32 million won (US$29,400). “The problem is that salary has not kept up with the inflation rate,” maintains a member of the US Forces in Korea Employees Union.  [Hankyoreh]

Considering the average pay these workers make they are definitely not making a lot of money.  It would be interesting to compare their average pay to civilian base workers back in the US.  Considering the cost sharing agreement with the ROK government I suspect these employees are a great cost savings for US forces compared to employee costs back in the US.  With that all said, US government employees have faced pay freezes the past few years so I would think it would be difficult to justify giving pay raises to Korean employees when US government employees are not getting one.

Does anyone have any insight into this issue?

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  • Maui
    2:36 am on November 19th, 2012 1

    Considering the source the story, and it would seem someone likes him. They kept him on after original job went away, or he’s so useless they put him where he can do the least harm until KEU can paper him out.

  • Bob
    2:54 am on November 19th, 2012 2

    My girlfriend is a Korean national with no formal education outside of High school she’s be happy to make 2 mill a month and only work 40 hrs a week. Go ahead, strike she’ll take your job with a smile.

  • landry
    4:35 am on November 19th, 2012 3

    exact-ally. go work for Samsung. or some North Korea project. too bad they never got raises but do they have access to buying stuff on post??

    I’d work for 2 mil if I could get Twinkies!! lol

  • Nue
    7:41 am on November 19th, 2012 4

    Although the base salaries can be a bit low, they earn something in the neighborhood of 800% in bonuses (8. With two zeroes after it) yearly. The cost of labor at the food establishments on post is something in the neighborhood of 80 percent of total costs of operation, and KGS workers have about the same level of job security as US GS employees.

  • Ole Tanker
    8:35 am on November 19th, 2012 5

    I calculated the payroll for 5 KN’s who I worked with back in 2006.
    From KG-4(5 years service) thru KG-9 (20 years service)and 3 KG-5′s.
    The KG 4 was making over 18,000 a year, totally unskilled labor and he seemed to be slightly above idiot IQ.

    The KG-9 was making $ 50 k a year. the KG-5s were in the $ 25-30 K a year.

    This included bonuses. Because they will always throw out that Base pay # and look at you with big Puppy Dog eyes.

    Figure these are 8-5 40 hour weeks and they get Korean Holidays off.

    A lot of folks are a lot worse off. :cool: :cool:

  • Setnaffa
    12:20 pm on November 19th, 2012 6

    A LOT of folks in Korea would be happy with ANY job…

  • Flyingsword
    7:28 pm on November 19th, 2012 7

    Last time I checked slaves don’t get paid, what a stupid comment.

    Oh yeah, and whose salary (besides politicians) has kept up with inflation.

    What a bunch of jerks.

  • Capstand
    7:42 pm on November 19th, 2012 8

    South Korea GDP per capita on PPP basis: $31,220 (2011 est.)

    If Koreans on these bases are making ~$29,000 a year with no advanced education, they should not have that much to complain over. A good many students graduating from Yonsei make no more than $22,000 a year right now, and there is a lot of talk in the local media that the employment outlook is worse than it was during the IMF crisis. It also does no good to start comparing these people’s wages to salaries in the States. These are Koreans in Korea who live in the local economy over here. Per capita income in the States is well over $10K more than in Korea, and Koreans also have a much higher disparity between rich/poor. These folks are demanding more even though they are making about 100%-200% per hour as folks with a Masters at Samsung, LG, Hundai, etc.

  • Ted Bissland
    9:55 pm on November 19th, 2012 9

    There are a lot of KN’s who work on base, and are not doing very much. They spend a lot of time trying to make it look like they are busy, but they are not. Overpaid, and under-worked for the most part. I wonder if you still have to pay “key money ” to get a job on base ? I’m sure there are other ancillary benefits, like shopping when they are not supposed to, but as one KN to another .. have at it !

  • guitard
    11:33 pm on November 19th, 2012 10

    landry wrote:

    but do they have access to buying stuff on post??

    They can eat at the restaurants – but can’t buy anything at the PX, commissary, or gas station.

    For base employees in Seoul – a KGS salary doesn’t go very far. But for the workers at places like TDC, Wonju, Pohang, etc. – they are doing just fine.

    A true sign of the times is the number of non-Koreans you now see working on base in jobs that used to be 100% Korean nationals. Take a look at the cashiers in the PX for example – several of them are not Korean.

  • PBAR
    12:24 am on November 20th, 2012 11

    If you look around Yongsan, in any parking lot where a lot of Korean civil service employees are employed by USFK, one can sure see a lot of 7 series BMWs, Audi A6/8s, etc. Some Korean employees are surely cleaning up paywise as I’ve seen a lot of them driving very nice luxury cars. In fact, it would seem the cars they drive are not in line with their salaries if you get my meaning…

  • Stephen
    12:32 am on November 20th, 2012 12

    Guitard, good point about KGS salary not going far in Seoul and pointing out one solution, non-Koreans doing the jobs.

    The solution, no matter how much Korean staff want it, is not to deepen the fiscal cliff by increasing salaries.

  • Randy
    1:50 am on November 20th, 2012 13

    “KNs can’t buy gas on base” LOL this is blatantly violated.

    Just the other day I was behind the pump as a Korean lady topped off her car. When she was done she popped open the trunk and started filling fuel cans. :roll:

    There’s a sign on each pump “100% ID check” that the KNs who run the pump don’t enforce.

  • guitard
    6:08 am on November 20th, 2012 14

    Randy wrote:

    “KNs can’t buy gas on base” LOL this is blatantly violated.

    Just the other day I was behind the pump as a Korean lady topped off her car. When she was done she popped open the trunk and started filling fuel cans.

    Collectively, there are thousands of ethnic Korean USFK military members, civilian employees and dependents – most of whom are US citizens – who have full on-base privileges.

    To suggest that a lady couldn’t have on-base privileges solely on the basis that she appears to be ethnic Korean is not only really ignorant – it’s racist.

  • Ole Tanker
    9:16 am on November 20th, 2012 15

    Good point Guitard! That is racial profiling, which is against everything we as Americans stand for.

    I was constantly being profiled as being a Mitt Romney supporter just because I’m a white male, glad it is over with that. :cool:

  • John
    5:13 pm on November 20th, 2012 16

    Back in the day (2005-2010) when I was running things, my comeback when KEU cried about the downtrodden KN was the attrition rate. Somewhere around 2%, which basically covers deaths and retirement. I’d tell the union this is the best deal we can offer and if things are really so much better off base your folks need to consider that option. Trust me, a job with USFK is considered a plum and hardly anyone leaves voluntarily once hired.

    And yes, the workers always cite their base salary and neglect to mention the large portion of their pay which comes from bonuses several times a year.

    Having said all that, with the labor cost sharing dollars from the ROKs, KNs are substantially cheaper than GS employees and they really are a bargain for USFK.

    The problem this year (and next, but don’t tell KEU!) is that US employees aren’t getting pay raises and the powers that be in Washington have decreed none for the KNs either. So there is just about nothing USFK can do to appease the Korean workforce. They’ve been told categorically that there is no funding available for any increase in wages or benefits. A strike would be fruitless because absent an Act of Congress (literally) the best deal available is on the table now.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they strike anyway. After all, this is Korea.

  • jim
    5:38 pm on November 20th, 2012 17

    these guys have phenomenal job security. 65% have been employed by usfk for over 10 years (half of those over 20 years).

    severance pay is paid annually, not at the end of service. so basically every year they get a bonus equal to their average monthly pay.

    their actual pay scales are here. if he’s getting less than 2mil per month, he’s trawling the bottom of the pay scales on his own worthlessness.

    for 29 cents on the dollar, korean employees are quite the bargain.

  • Matty
    6:02 pm on November 20th, 2012 18

    This dude should go work in South Korean factories with the lowly paid Southeast Asian workers and see if he will still complain “working like a slave”

  • Stephen
    8:26 pm on November 20th, 2012 19

    If the Korean employees have managed to get themselves into credit card or housing debt and hope that the US taxpayer will bail them out by increasing their salaries … that’s not going to happen … this time.

    All your base no longer belong to us and soon neither will your base salaries. Let the Korean taxpayers sort out your problems from now on.


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