Special Measures Agreement Korea

Special Measures Agreement: Understanding Its Importance and Implications in South Korea

In diplomatic relations, the special measures agreement (SMA) is a crucial pact that outlines the provisions and funding levels of defense and security cooperation between two nations. In South Korea, the SMA with the United States has been a long-standing agreement that has seen revisions and negotiations over the years. In this article, we will delve into the background, importance, and implications of the SMA in Korea.


The SMA between South Korea and the United States was first signed in 1991, following the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. It was designed to provide a framework for the sharing of defense costs and burden-sharing between the two allies. Under the agreement, South Korea agreed to share the costs of US military presence in the country, including the stationing of troops, maintenance of facilities, and other related expenses.

Since then, the SMA has undergone several revisions, with the most recent one signed in February 2019. The 10th SMA agreement, which was valid for one year, increased South Korea`s contribution to a total of 1.04 trillion won ($927 million) – a significant increase from the previous agreement.


The SMA is vital for the US-South Korea alliance as it ensures the continued military presence of the US in the Korean peninsula. The US has maintained a significant military presence in South Korea since the Korean War in 1950. With the ongoing threat from North Korea, the US military presence is a symbolic and actual deterrent to aggression from the North.

For South Korea, the SMA also helps bolster its defense capability by providing access to US military technology and expertise. The agreement also strengthens the alliance between the two countries and sends a message to other regional actors about their shared commitment to security and stability in the region.


The SMA has often been a contentious issue between the US and South Korea, with both sides not always seeing eye-to-eye on the terms of the agreement. The revision process can be lengthy and complex, with each side pushing for its interests and priorities. The most significant issue has been the amount of South Korea`s contribution, with the US often seeking a higher amount.

The SMA negotiations can also have other implications. For instance, in 2018, the US had threatened to reduce its military presence in South Korea if an agreement could not be reached. This threatened the alliance and also provoked a backlash from the South Korean public, who perceived it as a coercive measure.


The special measures agreement is a crucial diplomatic instrument that lays the foundation for US-South Korea security and defense cooperation. It ensures the continued US military presence in the Korean peninsula and sends a message to other regional actors about their shared commitment to stability and security. However, the agreement`s renegotiations can also lead to tensions and disagreements between the two allies, highlighting the need for constant dialogue and cooperation.

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