By Nam Sang-so
Today marks the 66th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement. And it has been 74 years since the U.S. 24th Army Corps first disembarked at Incheon. While the relocation of the U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Yongsan to USAG Humphreys is in its final stages, let’s briefly look back at what occurred with the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) over those long years.It first happened in late 1853, a whaling ship was washed up on the east shore north of Busan. The local officials attempted to communicate. But they couldn’t understand the strangers’ language and decided they were innocent fishermen and helped them to leave the country. The Koreans later named the aliens “Meriken.”
In 1866, General Sherman’s paddle-steamer, armed merchant ship entered the Taedong River (near Pyongyang) and demanded the country open for trade. Korea finally signed a treaty with America, ending several centuries of isolationism.
Then on Sept. 8, 1945, the U.S. 24th Army Corps that had been stationed in Okinawa disembarked at Incheon Port. The purpose of their deployment in Korea was to disarm the Japanese military remaining on the Korean Peninsula. The United States then deployed three U.S. Army divisions to South Korea; the 7th Division for Seoul, Gyeonggi, Gangwon and Chungcheong areas, the 40th Division to cover Yeongnam, and the 96th Division to positions in the southwestern Jeolla region. The cumulative number of the USFK was then about 70,000.
Yongsan Garrison had served as the headquarters for the Imperial Japanese Army up until August 1945, when the U.S. government sent the 24th Army Corps to Korea to accept the surrender of Japanese forces south of the 38th parallel.
It was drizzling early morning on Sunday, June 25, 1950, when North Korean soldiers crossed the truce line and invaded South Korea. The U.S. and U.N. Forces entered into and engaged in the war. After three years of fierce battles, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953. The war casualties of the United States were: 137,899 dead, 450,742 wounded, 24,495 MIA and 8,343 POWs.
The 8th U.S. Army relocated its headquarters into Yongsan Garrison from Daegu on Sept. 15, 1953. On July 12, 2017, the 8th U.S. Army headquarters were again relocated into USAG Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, leaving in the hearts of Seoul citizens mixed memories of joy and sorrow of the friendly cultural exchanges with the American soldiers.
Soon the site will be renamed as Yongsan Park but the citizens of Seoul will remember the USAG Yongsan for a long time.
Postscript: And on June 30, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump shook hands with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un and crossed the border and stepped on the North’s soil at the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone.
The writer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Korean War veteran who had served in Yongsan Garrison and K-6 (Camp Humphreys) for 20 years as an architect/engineer.