[EDITORIALS]Yongsan, the park

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[EDITORIALS]Yongsan, the park

As draft plan to turn Yongsan army base into a public park, submitted by the Korea Institute of Landscape Architecture and the Korea Planners Association at the request of the central government, reflects the central government’s stance regarding the relocation of the base. It’s only in the planning stage, but it includes multi-dimensional development projects and estimates of sales proceeds. Because the draft aims to develop part of the land, while Seoul city and civic groups wish to turn the whole area into a park, a hot debate will ensue.
The land used for U.S. Army bases that will be returned to Korea according to the relocation plan includes as many as 36 locations nationwide totaling 4 million square meters. Including training grounds, it totals over 20 million square meters. Yongsan base in particular is being handled by the central government instead of the Seoul city government.
The central government is getting involved in plans to build a park at the Yongsan base site by forming a separate committee for the project. Allegedly, the central government is working on the plan because of the costs needed to move the base. In the reported plan as well, measures to cover the costs of the relocation are presented.
However, meeting the costs needed for the U.S. Army base relocation must be dealt with as part of the national defense budget. It’s separate from plans to make use of the returned land. The costs of moving the U.S. Army bases nationwide need to be handled in connection with the realignment of the U.S. forces on a national level.
In the case of Yongsan base, in particular, it must be considered that a park can function as Seoul’s lungs. Instead of taking a short-term economic view of allocating funds needed for relocating the army base, we need to have a long-term view and consider what is necessary for our future generations.
In that case, it is right to turn the land into a park, rather than developing it with an eye on profits by building apartment complexes there. We have to consider that once an area is developed commercially, it is virtually impossible to turn it into a park. Of course, smaller development may be inevitable on pieces of land that are left over.
Germany enacted a special law regarding how to make the most of former U.S. Army bases after the decision to downsize NATO troops stationed in Germany. The Korean government also needs to set principles and procedures on how to use returned U.S. Army bases nationwide.
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