The United States military and the South Korean government on Friday agreed to the transfer of land from U.S. military bases in Seoul and Uijeongbu back to South Korea. File Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The United States transferred several parcels of land from former U.S. military bases to South Korea, officials from both countries announced on Friday.
United States Forces Korea handed over 165,000 square meters -- about 40 acres -- from Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul and all of Camp Red Cloud in the city of Uijeongbu.
Yongsan was the headquarters of USFK and the United Nations Command from the end of the 1950-53 Korean War until 2018, when both commands relocated to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, around 40 miles south of Seoul.
South Korea has been eager to develop Yongsan, which sits on a prime location, into a national park in the heart of the capital city. Only a small portion of the roughly 500 acres that will eventually be returned to South Korea has been handed over so far, but representatives from USFK and South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the pace would pick up this year.
"Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to work closely together to complete the return of a considerable portion of Yongsan Garrison by early this year," a statement issued by the Status of Forces Agreement joint committee said.
The representatives also agreed that "further delays aggravate the economic and social challenges of the local communities surrounding these sites."
Yoon Chang-yul, South Korea's first vice minister of government policy coordination, said Friday that the return of the land would accelerate the progress of the park's development.
"We plan to proceed with the return of a significant amount through related procedures in the first half of this year, and it is expected that the construction of Yongsan Park ... will gain momentum," he said in a press statement.
Uijeongbu, a satellite city 12 miles north from Seoul, has been planning to turn the more than 200 acres of Camp Red Cloud into a business complex to help spur economic development.
"As Uijeongbu City plans to create an e-commerce logistics complex, it is expected to be transformed into a logistics hub in the metropolitan area and greatly contribute to revitalizing the local economy," Yoon said.
Friday's parcel return at Yongsan is the second round of transfers from USFK, following 12 acres it turned over in December 2020, which included a sports field and a baseball diamond.
The handover is part of the U.S. military's ongoing moves to consolidate its 28,500 troops in garrisons in Pyeongtaek and Daegu, located roughly 200 miles southeast of Seoul.