- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2004

SEOUL — South Korea’s parliament yesterday approved the government’s plan to send 3,000 troops to Iraq, responding to a call from the United States, its key ally, for military help in restoring stability to the nation.

The troop deployment will make South Korea the third-largest contributor to coalition forces after the United States and Britain.

“We express gratitude to the National Assembly for making a tough decision in consideration of national interests,” said Yoon Tae-young, a spokesman for President Roh Moo-hyun.

South Korea already has 465 medics and engineers operating in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

It hopes to send the new forces to the northern Iraqi oil town of Kirkuk before the end of April. The new deployment, likely to include special forces commandos and combat-ready marines, will be solely responsible for security and reconstruction around Kirkuk.

Defense Minister Cho Young-kil said a 200-member advance team would head for Iraq in early April. “Safety is the most important consideration,” Mr. Cho said.

More than 52,000 soldiers have applied for the mission, which would pay $1,100 a month to a sergeant who would normally make only $15 at home.

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