[EDITORIALS]Handle Yongsan with careIt is encouraging that talks between South Korea and the United States to move the U.S. military base in Yongsan to another area have made rapid progress only one month after the negotiations resumed. The two sides are now reviewing the choices of alternative sites. In 1990, the two sides agreed to relocate Yongsan Garrison from central Seoul but the plan was nearly scrapped due to difficulties such as finding a proper alternative site and astronomical moving expenses. Because the relocation plan has recently faced a breakthrough, it is important that the Korean and U.S. governments, as well as the Korean people, understand this matter level-headedly in order to conclude the success of the negotiations.
First, the National Defense Ministry and the United States Forces Korea should be careful because relocating Yongsan Garrison may trigger anti-America sentiments in Korea. The two sides should come up with a convincing choice of an alternative site and calculate reasonable moving expenses. The relocation plans should be based on the spirit of the compromise.
The South Korean government is responsible for the financial burden of the relocation. But the estimation of moving expenses should be based on the standards of Korea, instead of reflecting the standards of the richest country in the world, the United States. At first, the original negotiations failed to be implemented because the U.S. forces notified the South Korean government that the relocation would cost $9.5 billion, up from $1.7 billion that was first estimated. The United States should realize that moving the base will not be implemented if the South Korean government cannot cover the proposed moving expenses. Furthermore, such a breakdown will stir anti-American sentiments in Korea. It is also important that the construction of new apartments inside Yongsan Garrison is carried out in step with the outcome of negotiations on relocating the base.
Politicians must not meddle in the procedure of new site selection as a part of their election strategies. The new site should also fulfill the security needs the U.S. military requires. Relocating Yongsan Garrison requires resolving conflicts of interest between Korea's national security and its residents. If the Kim Dae-jung administration handles this matter wisely, it will be remembered as a great accomplishment.