More private contractors will soon be on the front line as tensions continue to simmer between North Korea and the United States. The Department of Defense (DoD) just awarded Gilbane a $133 million contract to expand Camp Humphreys, which is essentially between Seoul and Anjeong-ri.
The strategically located Camp Humphreys is already home to the busiest Army airfield on the continent (it is even larger than the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan), most of the Second Infantry Division, and the Splish ‘N’ Splash water park. Some military planners believe that if the North breaks the 1953 cease fire, its troops will move south through this area because it is mostly flat and also concealed by large fog banks throughout much of the year. The Japanese originally saw the military significance of this area, building an airfield there in 1919. Gilbane, which outbid seven other firms, will expand the facilities to accommodate a new influx of troops that, when completed, will make Camp Humphreys the largest Army fortress in Asia. Work is scheduled to begin immediately and conclude in May 2020. Additionally, Gilbane workers will renovate and expand the nearby U.S. Forces Korea Operations Center.
Gilbane is headquartered in Concord, California.
The Two Koreas
Most people are already familiar with the history of the Korean Peninsula since the early Cold War period in the late 1940s. When Imperial Japan surrendered the occupied area to the Allies in the summer of 1945, large numbers of Soviet troops had already invaded neighboring China (Manchuria to be exact). As distrust grew between the wartime allies, American and Soviet negotiators drew an arbitrary line that divided Korea into north and south zones, much like Germany was divided into east and west.
Almost before the ink was dry on this agreement, in June 1950, North Korean forces stormed southward. The Soviet Union, partially because its relationship with Mao Tse-tung’s China were already approaching a low point, decided not to intervene in the budding conflict, so the United States quickly (and rather surreptitiously) rammed a resolution through the United Nations Security Council.
Three years later, after a series of bloody and mostly inconclusive engagements, peace talks which began in February 1951 resulted in a cease fire. Both sides held their positions, which rather befittingly were almost exactly along the original line of demarcation. The talks continued into 1954 but eventually collapsed.
In the ensuing decades, South Koreans have built one of the strongest economies in the area to go with a relatively open and democratically-elected regime, while most North Koreans live at or near subsistence level under one of the most isolated and repressive governments in the world. As tensions rose in April 2017, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said that President Trump was determined to “resolve” the situation “one way or another.”
Contractors in Korea
Though arguably vital, overseas military installations, especially sprawling facilities like Camp Henderson, are not terribly popular among many locals, who sometimes see such locations as nothing more than imperialism that has been slightly repackaged. At the same time, especially if the situation is relatively quiet, stateside pundits routinely question (or even lampoon) large U.S. expenditures in foreign countries, which some see as nothing more than back-door subsidies.
As a result, American bases in South Korea and other similar locales usually have large numbers of military contractors. Since the DoD usually only releases troop levels that list the number of servicemembers, the facility can seem smaller, which placates opposition at home and abroad, while it maintains a high readiness level.
Contractors have another advantage, as well, because they usually have a skill set that the Army Corps of Engineers, which is technically in charge of Gilbane’s Camp Henderson renovation, simply does not have. The Corps is not a construction firm, so it is cheaper to hire a qualified labor force that is ready to go than to build such an enterprise from the ground up.
Injured Contractors in Korea
Even though no one has fired a shot in anger along the 38th Parallel in over 60 years, it is still a war zone, especially for purposes of the Defense Base Act. The DBA provides benefits that compensate injured contractors for their:
- Lost Wages: Typically, contractors receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage until they are able to return to work at the same type of job which they held immediately prior to their injuries; contractors who are permanently disabled usually receive a one-time payment or perhaps an annuity.
- Medical Bills: The DBA also pays for all medical expenses, from the first ER bill to the final physical rehabilitation statement. Moreover, most injured contractors can choose their own doctors.
To obtain compensation, victims must show that their injury occurred in a war zone and was rationally related to their service in that area, so the wound need not occur during what most people see as the normal course of employment.
The experienced attorneys at Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel are here to fight for victims, so contact us today.