• US army base called ‘unreachable land’ Posted : 2018-04-09 18:44

    A full-size cardboard cutout of Yu In-su, who worked for over 35 years as a Korean civilian for the USFK, is on display at the “Yongsan: The Unreachable Land” exhibit. Behind him is Charles Woodruff, librarian at Seoul American High School who worked as a CID clerk in Camp Coiner in the 1970s.

    By Jon Dunbar

    “To me, Yongsan Garrison is like North Korea.”

    An odd sentiment, but understandable when you think about it; both are like an inaccessible foreign country to the civilian population.

    I heard that comment almost a year ago at an event by Yongsan Legacy (YSL), an NGO working to document the living memories of Yongsan Garrison as it disappears from the center of Seoul.

    “Yongsan: The Unreachable Land,” a new exhibit at the Yongsan War Memorial, provides a catch-up lesson on the more than a century of history most Koreans have missed out on, and gives a sneak preview of what’s on the other side of those concertina-wire-topped walls.

    “Yongsan Garrison is still recognized as a forbidden space most Koreans cannot easily reach or visit, so the history of this space is largely unknown,” said historian Kim Chun-soo, who organized the exhibit. “This exhibition was designed to examine the history of Yongsan Base at the time of transition when it is transformed into a park and to think about how to build a park in the future.”

    For over a century, the space located within what we now call Yongsan Garrison has been virtually inaccessible to the public. On domestic online maps, the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) property is censored out, covered over with an unconvincing mat of trees. From the ground, we are told not to look too closely, not to photograph the base. From almost all angles it seems uphill from us, with all we can glimpse over the high walls being dull burgundy buildings. But from within the base, we can observe that many of these buildings do have colorful signs welcoming the few in the know, into clubs, bowling alleys, bars and more.

    The base also has schools, U.S.-style suburban housing, a hospital and more to make it seem like Small Town USA. And as the exhibit shows, it has other traces of previous eras, such as a Japanese-built prison, the Namdan Altar, Joseon-era tomb markers and a reconstruction of Mancho Stream which still runs underground from up on Mt. Nam, down beneath Gyeongnidan-gil, under the base and then out to the Han River to the south.

    One blown-up photograph shows U.S. planes over Yongsan in September 1945, around when the Japanese forces officially surrendered to the U.S. Below, Mancho Stream stretches toward the Han, with many bridge crossings visible. Today, that portion of the stream is buried under a street that runs through the middle of Yongsan Electronics Market. Other pictures show the horrific floods the Yongsan region was once prone to.

    So much history has unfolded behind those high walls, and so much of Korean society has felt the influence of this secretive military installation in myriad ways, many of which historians are still working to trace.

    It really is unprecedented for a city to gain this much land, right in its very center. We won’t know what it will be like until it happens, but suddenly citizens will find passage from Itaewon to Yongsan Station or Seoul Station to be much quicker than now. Plans are already underway to build a park that will incorporate most of the land returned to Korea. There is information on various plans, and visitors are invited to write their own suggestions on cards.

    Personally, I hope Korean people who have missed out get the chance to see Yongsan Garrison with their own eyes, after the handover but before reconstruction begins.

    “I know negotiations will start next year, and the central government also plans on a temporary opening as soon as possible,” said Kim, who is helping Yongsan Park’s design team on the history and culture of the base.

    The exhibit documents past history through maps and images dating back to Joseon, as well as showing what’s to come, but it doesn’t leave out the legacy built here. Life-size 2D figures of real people who’ve lived and worked on base appear at the end of the exhibit, including not just military personnel but also civilians and people whose time in Yongsan led to greater things, showing the base was not just a military machine but also produced tailors, engineers, educators and more. The cutouts also contain bio information on the back and recorded voices. Each week the exhibit will add more figures.

    On a Friday afternoon, the exhibit received robust foot traffic. People young and old walked through, striding over a giant floor map that welcomes guests over the walls of Yongsan, some relishing the experience and others totally oblivious.

    Today, exhibitions like this are our best way to see what’s over the fences. But a day will come when the gates open and we can see it for ourselves.

    “Yongsan: The Unreachable Land” is on display at the War Memorial of Korea until May 5.

  • Note by Charles Woodruff on 5th April 2018
    And the changes keep coming to Yongsan. For the first time in decades movies at the theater will not be shown every night. The theater will only be open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Main PX which was open seven days a week will now be closed on Tuesdays. The good news (especially for my wife) is that Sungnam golf course which was slated to close at the end of this month has gotten a “stay of execution.” Will stay open until November.
  • Historian uncovers Yongsan Garrison’s ancient roots
    4th Yongsan legacy Column featuring our historian Kim Chun-Soo by Kyung Lee.
    Thanks Jon Dunbar from Korea Times
  • https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/us-military-leaves-mixed-legacy-in-seoul-as-move-south-gains-momentum-1.514046

    US military leaves mixed legacy in Seoul as move south gains momentum
    Published: February 26, 2018
    SEOUL, South Korea — Samia Mounts, a 34-year-old singer and author, grew up in a small American town with a twist. It was in the heart of Seoul surrounded by concrete walls topped with concertina wire.

    For decades, the Army’s Yongsan Garrison has offered American troops and their families all the trappings of home even as a burgeoning Asian metropolis sprouted up around it.

    “I was really struck by the juxtaposition of this really safe, heavily fortified military compound where all these people are trying to live normal, quote unquote, American lives” and the city outside, said Mounts, whose father was an Air Force officer assigned to Yongsan in 1989.

    Most South Koreans were left to wonder what was inside the sprawling 630-acre installation, which includes several smaller bases and is bisected into a main post and south post by a busy thoroughfare near the trendy neighborhood of Itaewon.

    That’s all changing, as a long-delayed plan to move most American forces to a new hub south of the capital picks up speed. The Army garrison has started to shrink, although it’s still hard to tell from outside. The relocation is not expected to be completed for at least two more years.

    Yongsan’s population, including the nearby K-16 air base, has plunged from 22,000 in May to 13,500 following the historic move in July of the Eighth Army from its aging red brick headquarters to Camp Humphreys.

    It’s expected to drop as low as 8,000 by Aug. 18 according to the current trajectory, garrison commander Col. Scott Peterson said as he laid out a timeline during a town-hall meeting earlier this month.

    The food court and post exchange have reduced hours. Gone is the Popeyes near the schools, which had been a popular student hangout. The commissary reduced the number of registers from 17 to 10 after much-needed equipment was transferred to Humphreys. The library also is being cut in size and no longer operates a drop box.

    U.S. Forces Korea made the first adjustment to the perimeter in December when it closed a main access point along with some living quarters and offices, sealing off a section of a northern corner known as Camp Coiner. This area will be the U.S. Embassy’s new home.

    Camp Kim, which has a USO building that closed Feb. 21, the Special Operations Command Korea and an office for vehicle registration, is on track to close in July, Peterson said, stressing that was contingent on SOCKOR’S plans.

    “What’s left of the garrison will stay like it is for the next six to 12 months with no major adjustments to the perimeter. Inside the base, however, there will be some additional reductions of stuff, the losses of a few conveniences,” Peterson told residents gathered in a base chapel.

    The next major milestone will be in December 2019 when the on-post hospital is due to close, triggering the departure of the last major unit.

    “By December of ‘19 much of what you currently see as Yongsan will have vacated and we’ll be down to a fairly small core of assets basically in and around the Dragon Hill Lodge and some remnants in and around the White House area,” Peterson said, referring to a hotel and the USFK headquarters.

    On the move
    The moves have been a long time coming.

    Seoul and Washington agreed in 2004 to move most U.S. forces from posts in Seoul and near the heavily fortified border with North Korea to a newly expanded Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, a rural area about 40 miles south of the capital.

    But the nearly $11 billion project to transform Camp Humphreys from an isolated outpost surrounded by rice paddies into the U.S. military’s gleaming new headquarters was frequently postponed.

    The South Korean-led construction project was to be finished in 2008, then 2012 and 2016 as it faced hurdles ranging from corruption, lengthy delays and shoddy work that forced some buildings to be torn down and rebuilt.

    It’s still not complete but has gained momentum in recent months with a slew of openings, including the largest overseas commissary and a massive new mini-mall.

    For decades, Yongsan Garrison has offered American troops and their families all the trappings of home even as the burgeoning metropolis of Seoul sprouted up around it.
    The problem-plagued 68-bed hospital is slated to be ready for patients Nov. 15, 2019, officials said. That will clear the way for Yongsan to be handed over to the South Koreans, who are expected to turn it into a park.

    The Americans are reportedly facing pressure from South Korea’s new liberal government to vacate the area completely. That would reverse longstanding plans to maintain a residual force on a smaller base encompassing the Dragon Hill Lodge, one of four full-service resorts around the world that provide vacation getaways for servicemembers.

    South Korea’s Defense Ministry has said discussions are underway to relocate the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command, which had been expected to stay at Yongsan, to the nearby ministry compound instead.

    No date has been set for USFK to move from its perch in a building known as the White House, but its new building at Humphreys is nearly finished and it’s expected to happen in the summer.

    Mixed legacy
    Yongsan’s development reflects the troubled history of the divided peninsula.

    It was established by Japanese forces who occupied Korea from 1910-45, and many of the brick buildings and guard posts from that era remain.

    American forces then made it their main base as they fought with the South Koreans against the communist-backed North and stayed after the 1950-53 war ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

    The base, once surrounded by dirt roads and farming villages, has been engulfed by Seoul’s rapid growth into an economic powerhouse with high-rises and trendy stores appearing outside its walls. That has made many South Koreans eager to reclaim what is now prime real estate.

    However, Daniel Oh, a professor of urban design and architecture, says the base’s role in South Korea’s post-war development is just as valuable because it influenced everything from Korean pop music to the automotive industry.

    “Yongsan has close ties to the miracle on the Han River,” Oh said. “It can be traced back to things we know as Korean culture today.”

    Oh and his wife, Coco Cugat, who co-founded the online Yongsan Legacy project in 2013, are racing to preserve the social history by collecting and archiving stories, photos and other memories in a virtual monument.

    “About 3.5 million GIs passed through that place,” said Oh, who also has been involved in the designs for the area after it’s handed over. He said the planning is complicated by security concerns and access limitations.

    He acknowledges that many South Koreans see it as a blight on the city, but he’s hoping to change that by raising awareness about its history.

    “People talk a lot about what this symbolizes, but they have never set foot inside,” Oh said. “We want people to reflect on what happened there.”

    For example, hundreds of Korean musicians auditioned to entertain the troops, giving many of them their start and planting the seeds for the entertainment agencies that dominate the scene today.

    Other South Koreans got their start in business by working with the Americans and catering to military personnel. The adjacent hilly neighborhood of Itaewon has grown from a farming village into one of the city’s most popular shopping and entertainment districts, packed with American-style restaurants and other foreign cuisines.

    Chang Chin-kuk, a 78-year-old tailor who owns a store in Dragon Hill Lodge, gives the U.S. military credit for saving his life and enabling him to become a successful businessman after he was orphaned during the war.

    Chang, who was born in Itaewon when it was still a village on the edge of Seoul, said American soldiers took him in after he was separated from his family during the chaos of the initial North Korean invasion. One even made sure he went to school, paying for his clothing and supplies.

    article continues below
    related articles

    “The bonds between USFK, particularly U.S. soldiers stationed at Yongsan, and South Koreans were knitted by the Korean War,” Chang said during a recent interview. “I hope those ties remain in South Koreans’ minds forever.”

    The base has a dark history as well with connections to crime, including the 1997 stabbing death of a South Korean college student blamed on the 17-year-old son of a U.S. military contractor. Arthur Patterson, who pleaded innocent, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the killing at a Burger King in Itaewon.

    Environmental activists and other critics have complained about oil spills and contaminants they fear have affected the soil and underground water, particularly near Camp Kim.

    Local activist groups released documents in April showing dozens of oil spills over a 25-year timespan at the garrison, including seven that were more than 1,000 gallons, and called for a joint investigation before the land is handed over.

    In 2000, the 8th Army commander apologized after the military discharged untreated toxic waste into the Han River, a main source of drinking water for Seoul.

    USFK insisted in a statement that the military’s “number one priority remains ensuring the continued health and safety of our service members, families, civilian workforce, and Korean neighbors.”

    The two allies also agreed last year to increase public transparency by promising to disclose “nonconfidential information” related to the U.S. military presence in South Korea.

    But critics say the status of forces agreement between the two countries prevents the South Koreans from learning the full extent of any problems they’ll inherit.

    “Only the U.S. military authorities probably know exactly the real state of the contamination,” said Seo Jae-cheol of the environmental advocacy group Green Korea. “The U.S. will likely stoke anti-American sentiment if it doesn’t clean up and leaves the contaminated land behind.”

    Dragon Hill
    About 28,500 U.S. servicemembers and thousands of family members and civilian contractors are based in South Korea. At one point they were spread out over more than 100 bases but will be largely consolidated at Camp Humphreys, which is expected to have a population of more than 46,000.

    Originally called Camp Seobinggo, the military changed the base’s name in the middle of the war to Yongsan, which means “Dragon Hill” in Korean. A walk around the sprawling compound feels like a trip back in time.

    Guard posts and dozens of buildings built by the Japanese Imperial Army are used by the Americans as offices and residential areas. Several Joseun Dynasty-era funerary statues dating back centuries can be found, some marked by plaques but others appearing randomly near a running track.

    South Korean historian JiHoon Suk pointed to a stone guardian that’s believed to be more than 350 years old at a monument across from the elementary school.

    “Before the early 20th century there were nothing but graves around here so I guess that’s one of the reasons why you still see some of these artifacts here,” he said during a recent tour.

    Mounts, who splits her time between New York and Seoul, spent much of her childhood with her family at Yongsan and wrote a young adult novel set on the base called “Frunk the Skunk.”

    She said the base often felt like a prison but she has grown to appreciate it.

    “When I was in high school it felt like a cage,” she said. “I felt imprisoned by the language barrier, imprisoned by the walls, imprisoned by the curfews.”

    “My feelings about the base now are really emotional because as much as I may have hated it at times, especially as a teenager … it’s the closest thing to a hometown I have,” she said.

    Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

    Twitter: @kimgamel

  • Happy Birthday to the Soldier Who Never Left

    Happy Birthday To The Soldier Who Never Left
    By Ned Forney | February 17, 2018
    John Nowell in 1983
    Stepping off the bus in January 1965, US Army Private First Class John Nowell, a 22-year-old California native who’d been drafted the year before, immediately knew Seoul wasn’t the place for him. The impoverished city of 3.2 million, with few cars, an abundance of ox-pulled carts, spicy food he didn’t like, and people he couldn’t understand, was, as he described it years later in an interview for 10 Magazine Korea, a “godforsaken” place.

    But people and places change, and over 50 years later, he’s still in Korea. It’s his home. John has come to love the country as if it were his own and has made a career out of promoting Korean-American friendship and building partnerships between the US Army and the citizens of Seoul.

    Among the many jobs he held during his years in the military, his favorite was serving as the Public Affairs Officer, or PAO, for the US Army. He worked tirelessly in the billet, one that was perfect for him and his outgoing personality, and eventually became known as “Mr. Yongsan,” the unofficial spokesman and face of the American military at USFK (US Forces Korea) Yongsan, a huge Army base, or garrison, located in the heart of Seoul.

    Although it is now almost totally closed and its soldiers have been relocated to a new base, Camp Humphreys, Yongsan brings back fond memories for John and hundreds of thousands of other US servicemen and women who were stationed there throughout its proud history. The base was their home away from home, a slice of American pie in downtown Seoul.

    John Nowell and Jackie Park
    John Nowell with his friend Jackie Park reminiscing about pictures taken at Yongsan. (Photo courtesy of Coco Cugat. Special thanks to Jon Dunbar at The Korea Times for the article in which this photo first appeared).

    John Nowell is the type of guy who’s never met a stranger. He’s always willing to help – I know firsthand how much he’s done for me and countless others in Seoul – and is a likeable and enthusiastic “ball of energy,” the perfect person to represent the US military overseas. He’s a true American diplomat who loves his job.

    From serving at Yongsan and volunteering with People to People International (PTPI) and numerous other non-profit organizations, to promoting Korean businesses and cultural events, Mr. Nowell has made a significant and lasting impact on his adopted country. And although he turns 76 today, he’s not slowing down.

    He recently joined the Yongsan Legacy Project (YLP). Founded by husband and wife team Daniel Oh and Coco Cugat, the non-profit works to “preserve the invaluable treasures of Yongsan Garrison.” Members of the organization are now busy collecting and sharing “historical facts and personal stories and memories of people who served and lived on the site.” It’s an honorable and worthy undertaking. For most Americans who served in the ROK, Yongsan Garrison was an integral part of their Korean experience, and it will soon be gone, transformed into the largest urban park in Seoul.

    In the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a changin,’ and John Nowell, having watched Seoul evolve into one of the great capitals of the world, knows about change. He’s seen it all.

    Happy Birthday, Mr. Nowell, and here’s to many more years of service to the country you never left.

    To hear John’s full story, check out this recent podcast by Arius Derr at Settlers of Seoul.

    John Nowell at 21
    John, 21, in California before being drafted and sent to Korea. (Photo courtesy of John Nowell)
    John Nowell in 2017
    John Nowell in 2017. (Photo credit: Tom Coyner)
    Map of Yongsan Garrison
    A 1964 map of Yongsan Garrison, or “Reservation.” It looks nothing like this today. (Photo credit John Nowell and Sunny Murphy, Chief Librarian at the old Yongsan Library.)
    Yongsan Legacy Project website
    Yongsan Legacy Project website: http://yongsanlegacy.org

  • http://world.kbs.co.kr/spanish/program/program_seoulreport_detail.htm?No=5609

    Coco Cugat reconoce el valor de la Base de Yongsan open the window of AOD 2017-12-15
    El proyecto Yongsan Legacy busca crear una base de datos sobre la base del Ejército de Estados Unidos ubicada en dicho enclave de Seúl, para que cualquier interesado pueda acceder y obtener información sobre tan singular espacio.
    Coco Cugat, profesora de arquitectura de la Universidad Korea, junto con su marido y fundador del proyecto, Daniel Oh, ha dedicado casi 5 años -desde 2013- a recopilar fotos, vídeos e historias de los residentes en dicha base militar, que tuvo gran influencia en el desarrollo de la sociedad contemporánea de Corea del Sur.

    Así, el monumento virtual Yongsan Legacy preserva vívidamente los valores de la zona, y presumiblemente tendrá aún más valor a futuro, ya que dicha base será trasladada a otra ciudad el próximo año.

  • YongsanLegacy posted an update in the group Group logo of Yongsan garrison newsYongsan garrison news 4 months ago

    ‘5,000-year-old culture collides with gaggle of knucklehead GIs’ January 11, 2018
    By Martin Limon

    By Martin Limon

    The cover of Martin Limon’s latest book, “The Nine-Tailed Fox” published 2017 by Soho Press
    For me, it all started on Yongsan Compound. A place where a 5,000-year-old culture collided with a gaggle of knucklehead GIs (myself included) who could barely find Korea on a map. The result was occasionally tragic, sometimes beautiful, but always provided an opportunity to become someone better.

    In the early 1970s, Yongsan Compound was a happening place. Korea was still emerging from the post-war era and the citizenry was buzzing over the recently completed Seoul-to-Busan highway and the high-rise buildings newly peeking above the skyline of the capital city. Meanwhile, Yongsan Compound was open _ relatively speaking _ to the world. The main gate was nothing more than a roll-back chain-link fence manned by a lone MP. At the Pedestrian Gate, a contract guard checked Korean base workers and military members and waved them through. So unlike the massive defensive structures protecting the gates today.

    Yongsan Compound was seen as a cornucopia of tax-free luxuries: Johnny Walker Black, Kent cigarettes, Stateside staples such as Folger’s freeze-dried crystals, S&H pure cane sugar, canned salted pork shoulder, even jars of maraschino cherries. Massive amounts of these imports were transported off base to help supply the appetites of a newly burgeoning Korean middle class.

    Patti Kim performed at the USOM Club, the Grand Old Opry at the NCO Club, and some of the best Korean singers and bands put on shows at military venues throughout the country. Politicians and chaebol owners hobnobbed with generals on the manicured lawns of the 8th Army Golf Course. Expert taekwondo instructors took students through their paces at Trent Gym. Night classes leading to degrees were offered by the University of Maryland Far East Division.

    But there was trouble in paradise. Crime, not only on base but off-base. Theft, embezzlement, strong-armed robberies, rape and even murder, most often perpetrated by GIs on the Korean public.

    This was the genesis for the series of novels I was eventually to write, beginning with “Jade Lady Burning” in 1992, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and most recently “The Nine-Tailed Fox” published by Soho Press in October 2017. My protagonists are George Sueno and Ernie Bascom, two 8th Army CID agents who because of Sueno’s Korean language skills and Bascom’s ability to blend in with lowlifes of any nationality, come to take on cases of increasingly ominous portent. They’ve appeared in 12 books so far, plus a short stories collection. It all comes from my years spent in Yongsan.

    Martin Limon is a full-time writer who retired from the army with 20 years of military service. He spent 10 years in Korea on three tours: 1968-69, 1973-76 and 1977-80. Visit yongsanlegacy.org to learn more about the history of Seoul’s disappearing U.S. garrison or to contribute your own memories.

  • YongsanLegacy posted an update in the group Group logo of Yongsan garrison newsYongsan garrison news 4 months ago

    (Yonhap Feature) U.S. troops under pressure to vacate Yongsan base, 2018-01-24 (Wednesday)

    By Lee Chi-dong

    YONGSAN GARRISON, Seoul, Dec. 28 (Yonhap) — North Korea is not the only thing that keeps Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), hard at work nowadays.

    The Yongsan base relocation is another tough task, probably a source of stress for the commander who often emphasizes the importance of the robust alliance to “fight tonight.”

    American troops in Seoul have been hard pressed to move out of their 2.7-million-square-meter base in Yongsan, the central part of the capital, since the inception of the liberal Moon Jae-in administration in May, according to multiple sources.

    The government has pushed for a speedy and thorough relocation of the base, contrary to a rather “lenient” approach by the previous conservative administrations of Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye over the past decade.

    The Eighth Army moved to Camp Humphreys, a new USFK hub base 70 kilometers south of Seoul, earlier this year. Camp Coiner, a USFK site to be turned into a U.S. Embassy compound, is in the shutdown process. Its main gate was closed in early December.

    “The Yongsan base relocation is scheduled to be completed by the end of next year,” said a Ministry of National Defense official in charge of the issue.

    The headquarters of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command at the U.S. Forces Korea’s base in Yongsan, Seoul (Yonhap) The headquarters of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command at the U.S. Forces Korea’s base in Yongsan, Seoul (Yonhap)

    The USFK is apparently pressed for time, as it regarded 2019 or 2020 as the deadline amid a slow-moving transition over the last 10 years.

    Furthermore, its plan to maintain the headquarters of the allies’ Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the Dragon Hill Lodge hotel has suffered a setback.

    “South Korea wants the USFK to empty the Yongsan base, including the CFC in the Main Post and the Dragon Hill in the South Post,” an informed source told Yonhap News Agency.

    It means a reversal from a 2014 deal between the allies to allow the U.S. to retain some facilities at the base, formally named the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan.

    The USFK reportedly hopes to keep some troops at the existing CFC building and use the hotel as a liaison office for them.

    The Dragon Hill Lodge hotel at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan (Yonhap) The Dragon Hill Lodge hotel at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan (Yonhap)

    But South Korea has asked the U.S. to transfer the CFC headquarters to the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff building in the other part of Yongsan, according to another source.

    “Defense Minister Song Young-moo delivered the position to Gen. Brooks in their recent meeting,” added the source. “The Ministry of National Defense’s U.S. policy division is in consultations with the CFC over the matter. There will likely be a related agreement in the not so distant future.”

    South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) talks with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, in this photo provided by Song’s ministry. (Yonhap) South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (R) talks with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, in this photo provided by Song’s ministry. (Yonhap)

    Both time and money are a problem. The USFK dismissed a view that it’s dragging its feet.

    “We are willing to relocate the base as agreed,” a USFK spokesperson told Yonhap. “However, it’s a very complicated and time-consuming issue, especially as a number of key American service members here also work at the CFC. Relocating the CFC is different from moving the Eighth Army.”

    For instance, Brooks doubles as head of the CFC.

    There’s an underground bunker at the CFC headquarters, which is packed with sophisticated systems.

    “Right next to the CFC building, a U.S.-only area is located that is off limits to Koreans. It’s not a simple matter to move the facility,” a defense source said. “The U.S. hopes South Korea will share the financial burden for transferring it.”

    The Moon administration believes that the USFK has been granted enough time for the relocation agreed in 2004 and originally slated to finish by 2008.

    A signboard at the Yongsan base of the U.S. Forces Korea. (Yonhap) A signboard at the Yongsan base of the U.S. Forces Korea. (Yonhap)

    The transition had been long delayed amid Seoul’s repeated pursuit of postponing the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of its troops from Washington. For now, the “conditions-based” OPCON transfer is virtually an open-ended goal.

    Government officials here also pointed out South Korea has already paid more than 90 percent of the cost of the expansion of Camp Humphreys, which totals US$10.7 billion.

    The Moon administration is eager to turn the vast swathe of land in Yongsan into a family park as early as possible.

    There’s a rumor that Im Jong-seok, presidential chief of staff who served as vice Seoul mayor from 2014 to 2015, is behind the drive.

    Once the relocation is completed, the Foreign Ministry will start negotiations with the USFK on the base’s return in accordance with the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) followed by a joint environmental survey.

    A snow-covered creek behind the Combined Forces Command building at the U.S. military base in Yongsan (Yonhap) A snow-covered creek behind the Combined Forces Command building at the U.S. military base in Yongsan (Yonhap)

    The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is officially in charge of implementing the development project and it’s accelerating relevant preparations.

    The ministry plans to open some available locations first to citizens, including the residential area in the South Post that is deemed relatively less polluted.

    The Cultural Heritage Administration has already done a preliminary on-site inspection of the area to be handed over to South Korea.

    The JUSMAG-K building, which was once a barracks for Japanese military officers (Yonhap) The JUSMAG-K building, which was once a barracks for Japanese military officers (Yonhap)

    In the early 1900s, it was a base for Japan’s imperialist military. American troops took over the site in the wake of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule from 1910-45.

    “The government requested the USFK to leave everything that existed before its presence as it is,” the defense ministry official said. “The government plans to preserve those sites with historic value.”



  • YongsanLegacy posted an update in the group Group logo of Yongsan garrison newsYongsan garrison news 4 months ago

    Yongsan Legacy] Yongsan and the Electric Mayhem Posted : 2017-12-26 19:43Updated : 2017-12-26 19:45
    By Micah Granderson
  • Ep. 14 – John Nowell on 53 Years in South Korea

    SETTLERS OF SEOUL, Settlers of Seoul Podcast

  • Coco Cugat posted an update in the group Group logo of Yongsan garrison newsYongsan garrison news 5 months ago


    Concrete walls topped with concertina wire is what most South Koreans only ever see of the Yongsan Garrison, a sprawling US military base in the center of Seoul.

    But as a teenage guitarist in 1955, Shin Joong-hyun remembers the first time he entered the base. He and other local musicians had been hired to entertain soldiers with American songs, which Shin says were all but unheard of to most Koreans at that time.

    “I knew nothing about American music then,” he says, recalling that he needed to learn jazz, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll numbers for auditions at the clubs on the base.

    By hearing imported records on the jukebox and listening to the US military’s Armed Forces Korea radio network, Shin says he got the hang of it. Soon, he and the others took what they learned inside the base and began playing American music for local audiences.

    Today, Shin is known as the godfather of Korean rock.

    Shin says he feels nostalgic for the place where he got his start, especially now that it will soon be gone.

    “It was like a home to me,” Shin says. “Without the Yongsan Garrison, it feels like my generation’s culture will soon be gone and me along with it.”

    For many South Koreans, the exterior walls of the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul were the only part of the US military base they got to see. It was like a "black hole inside the city."For many South Koreans, the exterior walls of the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul were the only part of the US military base they got to see. It was like a “black hole inside the city.” Credit: Jason Strother
    The US military is in the process of relocating American soldiers to a facility outside the capital and transferring the garrison’s 617 acres to the South Korean government, which plans to convert the land into a public park. That will bring an end to more than a century of foreign occupation of the area; Yongsan was first a headquarters for colonial Japan’s forces in the early 20th century, and since the Korean War, had been home to the US Eighth Army and other US units.

    The base leaves behind a mark on South Korea, says Daniel Oh, co-creator of Yongsan Legacy, an online forum dedicated to the garrison’s history.

    “We see it as a window to modern Korean culture,” he says.

    Oh explains that the base was both a conduit for American culture into South Korea as well as a creator of jobs, because the US military played such an oversized role in the country’s post-war development.

    Aside from being the birthplace of Korean rock, it’s where the country’s entertainment, automotive and even shoe making industries trace their roots, Oh says, adding that the Yongsan Garrison also provided work for local ceramic and portrait artists and influenced fashion designers who saw Americans in Seoul wearing Western styles.

    But because the base has been closed off for so long, many Koreans see it as a “black hole inside the city,” according to Oh.

    For Kang Tae-an, who has lived just outside the Yongsan Garrison since the 1970s, the best thing to come out of the base was American food.

    “It was a dream,” she says, recalling all the products, like ice cream, jam and peanut butter, that were not available in South Korean stores when she was a child, but were sold in shops in neighborhoods that were home to US soldiers.

    Kang, who runs Gastro Tour Seoul, says the culinary legacy of the Yongsan base lives on in the communities that surround it. They were the first to have American-style bakeries and restaurants in the city and are still where South Koreans go to find “the authentic flavor and taste” of Western food, she says.

    The Yongsan Garrison has also influenced some South Korean filmmakers, like director Bong Joon-ho, and his 2006 monster movie, “The Host.”

    The film opens with an American military mortician ordering his subordinate to pour formaldehyde down the drain and into Seoul’s Han River — an act that leads to the creation of a bloodthirsty creature that terrorizes the capital.

    This scene was based on a 2000 incident that took place inside the garrison, in which a mortuary officer oversaw the disposal of a reported 192 bottles of the embalming liquid. The event touched off a legal battle between the US military and local authorities and led to protests by environmental activists that still continue.

    “The film made South Koreans more aware of the pollution that’s hidden inside the US base,” says Shin Soo-yeon of Green Korea. “And this monster is still alive.”

    Shin points to recent studies conducted by South Korea’s Ministry of Environment that indicate high levels of groundwater contamination in and around Yongsan Garrison.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government writes in an email that the US military “should clean and purify the water in the sewers of Yongsan Post before returning to Korea.”

    A statement issued by the public affairs office of United States Forces Korea says the American military takes “environmental protection, human health and public safety very seriously, and we are committed to responsible environmental stewardship.”

    It goes on to explain that the USFK’s responsibilities for addressing environmental concerns are outlined in the Status of Armed Forces Agreement (SOFA) with South Korea.

    The statement concludes, “Our number one priority remains ensuring the continued health and safety of our service members, families, civilian workforce, and Korean neighbors.”

    Kim Eun-hee, 42, who lives close to the Yongsan Garrison, doesn’t agree.

    “The SOFA has allowed American soldiers to get away with committing offenses here,” says Kim, who was handing out pamphlets that detail allegations of environmental pollution caused by the US military.

    Kim adds that it’s hard for her to see anything good that’s come from the Yongsan Garrison.

  • In case you’re near Samgakji tomorrow, stop by the National World War I Museum and Memorial. City of Seoul is opening a special exhibition for Yongsan Park tomorrow, and the Yongsan Legacy #historian Kim Chunsoo will be giving a guided tour as a part of the opening ceremony tomorrow starting at 10am.

    Place: War Memorial, Special Exhibition Hall 2, Yongsangu Hangangdaero Samgakji Satation (Line 4,6)

    When: Dec. 15th 2017 / 10am-11am

    Free Admission

  • On The field is a casket containing the remains of British Soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War. The remains were previously interred as an unknown loss at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Korea Busan, republic of Korea.
    Subsequent historical research and scientific analysis raised the possibility that there may be remains of several UNC service members from several countries. These remains will be taken to the US Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii to continue the identification process.
  • US Marine’s love in the time of war
    He arrived in Korea on Jan. 9, 1949, as part of the security detachment of the American Embassy in Seoul, located in the Bando Hotel, now the site of downtown Seoul’s Lotte Hotel…..things changed when Lee Sook-ei, a young Korean woman working in the communication section of the embassy, caught his attention. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen
    Eventually their attraction to one another overcame the potential disapproval of her mother and they began dating
    As Lampman fondly recalls, “we were meant for each other”

    Attached photo George Lampman and Lee Sook-ei in the 1950s / Courtesy of Robert Neff collection

  • Coco Cugat posted an update in the group Group logo of Yongsan garrison newsYongsan garrison news 7 months ago

    Pacific star and Stripes
    Photos and Story By SP4 J.R.Smith Korea Bureau

    These Students Go 1st Class.
    Dormitory Seoul American High School
    News Source, Allison Nash, SAHS alumna, 1965-1967

  • Coco Cugat posted an update in the group Group logo of Yongsan garrison newsYongsan garrison news 7 months ago

    Author recalls growing up on Yongsan Garrison
    By Jon Dunbar

    As U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Yongsan continues to relocate, its far-reaching effects on the surrounding society are emerging.

    Samia Mounts grew up and went to school on the base, later writing the young adult novel “Frunk the Skunk,” uniquely set on post at the Seoul American High School, published in 2008 by 4N Publishing.

    Mounts moved to New York where she sings and acts under the stage name Samia Xi, but returns to Korea often.

    On Oct. 30, she will share the experiences that inspired her to write, in a talk with Yongsan Legacy, a collective of historians working to unearth the cultural contributions of USAG Yongsan.

    “When you live on a military base, there is a constant flow of people going in and out,” she said in an interview with The Korea Times. “Every school year brings a new social circle and new opportunities to reinvent or redefine yourself. All of this has prepped me well for a life in the entertainment industry in New York. I have Yongsan to thank for that.”

    She moved with her family to Seoul aged six in 1989 and has moved back and forth between Korea and America several times.

    “Frunk the Skunk” is loosely autobiographical, describing the life of teenaged Tarryn Frunk at a school walled off from Korean society. Yet the book rarely comments on the strangeness of this setting, instead living out normal teenage problems here.

    “There are whole sequences of the book that I could walk you through in real life,” she said. “At least one person is going to get a Frunk the Skunk tour while I’m in town!”

    The relocation plan has been discussed for decades, but now that it’s happening, Mounts is among those who are sad to see it go, including her former school, which may shut down next year.

    “I love Seoul. I love the base. When I was a teenager, it sometimes felt like a prison, but looking back, it was the closest thing I ever had to a hometown,” Mounts said. “The thought of it all being torn down is heartbreaking. That base represents my childhood and adolescence. Almost all of the experiences and memories that most define who I am today happened there.”

    Aside from the talk, she also plans to sing at Leo’s in Haebangchon on Nov. 4. She will perform with RaeMe, a fellow singer visiting from New York.

    “Because this is the last year students will be going through my high school, I convinced my best friend RaeMe to visit Seoul with me so she can see where I grew up,” Mounts said.

    The talk is Monday at 6 p.m. on Camp Kim, located a couple of minutes north of exit 10 of Samgakji Station on lines 4 and 6.

    Visit facebook.com/yongsanlegacy for more about the talk, or samiaxi.com for her music.

  • Load More

© 2018 Yongsan Legacy Cooperative


Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?


Create Account