SEOUL — With negotiations on the revision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to open early next month, how South Korea and the United States will revise the controversial clauses in the agreement is drawing keen attention.
Many scholars and critics blast the SOFA in Korea as having many more unfair clauses than those in Japan and Germany.
The United States claims the SOFA has more favorable clauses than those in Japan and Germany and was modeled after them.
The Taejon Treaty signed in 1950 served as the early blueprint for the SOFA in Korea, which was enacted in 1966. The SOFA in Japan took effect in 1960 and that in Germany in 1963.
Critics say the SOFA in Korea is geared to strongly benefit the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).
The auxiliary records to the SOFA restrict clauses in the agreement, eventually infringing on national sovereignty and human rights, they say.
Compared to the SOFA in Japan, the most unfair clause of the SOFA in Korea is seen as the one on detention and delivery of USFK suspects.
While Japanese authorities can detain U.S. suspects after arrest, Korean authorities cannot until the end of the relevant trials even in the case of crimes such as murder, robbery and rape.
Japanese investigators can continue to detain U.S. suspects as long as they have a rationale to do so after catching them.
In Korea, investigators must notify the USFK after apprehending U.S. servicemen suspected of crimes and hand them over immediately.
In Germany, U.S. forces there are allowed to detain suspected American servicemen until their final sentences are handed down. But German authorities can ask U.S. forces to hand over suspects in special cases, and the latter must consider the request favorably.
Furthermore, the SOFA in Korea bans prosecutors from appealing to higher courts after a suspect is found not guilty, unlike in Japan.
The SOFA stipulates that Korean authorities cannot exercise jurisdiction on crimes committed by U.S. servicemen during their official duties.
In this case, it calls for the general-level USFK officers to judge whether relevant things are official duties or not, raising fear of the possibility of arbitrary judgements.
But in Japan, the SOFA calls for immediate superiors of the suspects to issue certification on official duties and allows Japanese courts to intervene in the final judgement.