중앙데일리

For better or for worse, a move by U.S. troops stirs a province

July 26,2003
DONGDUCHEON, Gyeonggi ― The news that Seoul and Washington have settled more details of a relocation of U.S. troops away from northern Gyeonggi province stirred up residents here yesterday. The two nations agreed Thursday that the U.S. 2d Infantry Division, deployed here and in Paju and Uijeongbu, would move to southern Gyeonggi areas, reportedly near Pyeongtaek and Osan. Here, residents are generally worried about the move, while Pyeongtaek, the likely new home of the U.S. forces, is bitterly divided about its prospective new neighbors.
Placards and banners abounded near the roads leading to U.S. bases here yesterday. Two popular themes were “No to the U.S. military relocation!” and “We are enraged about 50 years with no compensation.” Whether for protection or for revenue, Dongducheon does not want to say goodbye to the Yanks.
Only a few American soldiers were on the small street in front of Camp Casey, where most of the U.S. 2d Infantry Division is stationed. Of the 37,000 American soldiers on the peninsula, 15,000 belong to the division. “Even now, the economy here is at its lowest ebb,” said Jo Gyeong-cheol, 60, who owns a GI bar here. “What shall we do when the U.S. soldiers just leave the area without our government’s just compensation or a development plan? We have sacrificed for 50 years.”
In Dongducheon’s local economy, businesses serving GIs loom large. According to the city council, 365 businesses fall into that category. Most are laundromats, supermarkets, shoe stores, souvenir shops and bars. About 3,400 persons work in those establishments; their annual sales are 135 billion won ($114 million), nearly equal to the city’s administrative budget of 143.7 billion won.
But some welcomed the relocation. “I am happy they are moving out,” said a housewife passing a bus terminal. “Our city can get rid of the loathsome image of a military camp town, and we won’t have to worry about crimes committed by the GIs.”
In Pyeongtaek, the likely site of the division’s new home, reaction was more sharply divided. “We will be able to advance our economy’s development by a decade when the U.S. troops move here,” said Park Hae-cheon, a tourism official. But civic and religious groups predict higher crime rates and an invasion of tawdry nightlife.


by Jeon Ick-jin, Eum Tae-min


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