The Yongsan Garrison is a US military base located in Yongsan-gu, Seoul. It contains the headquarters for the US military presence in Korea, known as United States Forces Korea or USFK.
The garrison comprises 2.5 square km (630 acres) of suburban-style living in the heart of Korea's capital city, with a golf course and 440,000 square m (4.7 million square ft) of floor space in hundreds of buildings. The garrison is separated into Main Post and South Post, with the two parts connected by an overpass bridge over a major Seoul thoroughfare. The overpass was a recent innovation and was completed in January of 2004 to solve traffic issues between the two sections of the post.
During the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, the Japanese Army was headquartered at what was called 'Yongsan Reservation', which at that time was a southern suburb of Seoul. In 1945, after Japan surrendered, American units headquartered in Yongsan, which means Dragon Mountain. U.S. military occupation forces led by the XXIV Corps and the 7th Infantry Division provided order, security and administrative support to South Korea pending establishment of a single government for the entire peninsula.
The plan for a unified Korea became impossible, as the Soviets opted to seal the border at the 38th Parallel and create a communist state in the North. In 1945, following the approval of a new constitution and elections monitored by the United Nations, the southern part of the peninsuala became the Republic of Korea (ROK) and replaced the existing US military government.
The Yongsan area continued to be used by U.S. forces who served as advisors to the South. In 1949, the Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) was formed at the request of the South Korean Government to help develop and train its military.
Yongsan Reservation, as well the rest of Seoul and much of Korea, sustained great damage, when North Korea invaded the South in 1950. Both warring sides moved through Sepul twice before the United Nations Command (UNC) eventually regained control. The UNC and U.S. forces established headquarters at Yongsan in 1952. The Seoul Area Command (SAC) ran the post itself for 20 years, until July 1957, the U.S. Forces Korea Headquarters were established at Yongsan. At the same time, the Headquarters of the United Nations Command was also moved to Yongsan from Tokyo.
Many buildings originally used by the Japanese are still being used today. The Japanese cavalry and horse stables were located at what is now Hannam Village. The HHC Eighth Army Headquarters building served as Japanese troop billets and five two-storied brick buildings on Main Post which have housed HQ, United States Forces Korea (USFK), Eighth U.S. Army (EUSA) Headquarters, and various staff sections served similar purposes for the Japanese Army.
In October 1971, the Yongsan U.S. Army Garrison was removed from provisional status and began to expand its support capabilities. Schools, more family units and improved troop facilities were developed, only to be interrupted for several years in the late 1970's when the planned reduction of U.S. ground combat forces tightened construction budgets. After the cancellation of the reduction plan in 1980, years of improved budgets began the subsequent transformation of Yongsans’ physical plan into a modern installation.
Relocation of Yongsan Garrison
The South Korean and U.S. governments have agreed to relocate this facility 50 km further south, to Camp Humphreys near the city of Pyeongtaek in the future. South Korea had traditionally regarded this garrison as insurance against the U.S. army abandoning Seoul, which is only about 65 km from the DMZ. However, in recent times the garrison's prominent location in the capital has contributed to anti-U.S. sentiments among some Koreans. As a result of this relocation and the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops near the DMZ, all American troops will be pulled back from north of the Han River.
Future of Yongsan
In 1992, some 297,000 square meters (77 acres) of land, including the golf course, was given back to the City of Seoul to become Yongsan Family Park and the site of the recently opened National Museum.
The government has proclaimed that it wants to turn the former base into a park. However, as the government has made an agreement with the US military on sharing the financial burden of the base relocation, an estimated $5 billion task, the Construction and Transportation Ministry has made plans to sell part of the lucrative land for commercial development to help with relocation costs. A decision that has caused some protest from the opposition party and citizens who want the whole area to be used as a park, to preserve it as a symbol of overcoming foreign occupying forces. The Yongsan national history park will be completed in 2045, the 100th anniversary of the nation’s liberation from Japan.