[EDITORIALS]'No' to new U.S. buildings

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[EDITORIALS]'No' to new U.S. buildings

Controversy is rising over the United States Forces Korea's long-term plan to demolish aging on-base housing occupying 150,000 square meters in the South Post of the Yongsan U.S. Army Garrison in central Seoul. The U.S. military plans to build 20 eight-story apartment buildings with 1,066 households. We understand the U.S. military's reasons for the project, but we urge them to think twice about building the new apartment complex at the Yongsan base.

At the 33d annual Security Consultative Meeting in Washington last month, South Korea and the United States agreed on a Land Partnership Plan, which in effect scrapped a 1991 agreement to move the Yongsan garrison out of Seoul. Under the land partnership agreement, the U.S. military is to return to Korea some of its unused bases and training camps. Reportedly, the American military drew up the plan to build new apartments at South Post for American military officers as part of its efforts to consolidate military installations and upgrade its aging facilities.

But the people of Korea strongly want the Yongsan garrison to move out of the Seoul metropolitan area. No matter why history has developed that way, the fact that a foreign military command is stationed in the center of Korea's capital city is a blow to our national self-esteem. Moreover, the U.S. military has sometimes distorted Seoul's urban planning and caused environmental problems. Now that the American troops plan to build semipermanent apartment buildings even at the risk of hurting the landscape of Namsan, the mountain in central Seoul, it is natural that the city government as well as citizens and environmental activist groups are opposed to the project.

Seoul and Washington should solve the issue wisely if for no other reason than to prevent the issue from fueling anti-U.S. sentiment. If it is necessary to upgrade housing facilities for the U.S. troops, apartments on the outskirts of Seoul should be considered as an alternative.
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