Yongsan-gu, led by Mayor Sung Jang-hyun, announced a “welcome” position on the joint statement of the Joint Chairperson of the Korea-US Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) regarding the return of a part (500,000 square meters) of the Yongsan base of the U.S. military base.
Mayor Sung said, “After two sports facility sites (53,418 m²) were returned to the government at the end of last year, an additional 500,000 m² site will be returned by early next year. The construction of Yongsan National Park will be spurred.”
He also said, “We will mobilize all our capabilities to create a complete ecological park. We will reveal the current state of environmental pollution through groundwater quality inspections around US military bases and actively participate in the ROK-US joint investigation plan.”
The district plans to raise its voice so that negotiations can be resumed on the remaining US sites.
Mayor Sung said, "The current Yongsan-gu office site was also used by the US military at one time, but during my second term of the popular election, it was directly requested to be returned by listing it on the SOFA agenda. We will pay attention to minimize residual facilities, including the Dragon Hill Hotel.”
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SOFA Joint Chairperson Ko Yoon-joo, North American director, and Deputy Commander Scott Pleus, deputy commander of the USFK, decided on July 29 to push for the return of the USFK base in Yongsan, an area of about 500,000 square meters, by early next year through wire consultation.
In 2002, South Korea and the United States agreed to return 80 US bases to South Korea, and 68 are currently in progress.
However, the return schedule for Yongsan Garrison, which is the most symbolic, has been delayed due to the lengthening of the ROK-US Combined Forces presence in Yongsan Garrison even after the relocation of the USFK headquarters to Pyeongtaek in June 2018.
Even if the ROK-US Combined Forces relocates, there are still matters to be discussed, such as the demarcation and construction of the liaison office area, which will remain at the Yongsan Base.
Mayor Sung said, “Yongsan Base is a prismatic space in world history surrounding the Korean Peninsula in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to environmental research, there are so many things to do in the future, such as historical records and data organization, and preservation of historical sites.”
He said, “I hope the overall land return negotiations will speed up a little bit.”
In 2004, South Korea and the United States officially agreed to relocate the Yongsan US base to Pyeongtaek.
In 2007, the Special Act on the Creation of Yongsan Park was enacted, and the relocation of the US base to Pyeongtaek began in earnest in 2017, starting with the 8th US Army headquarters.
Mayor Sung said, “We will do our best to ensure that the voices of the residents are prioritized in the creation of Yongsan Park.”