Military to open up more restricted land

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Military to open up more restricted land

Twenty-one different areas across the country will be stripped of their military facility protection zone status, the South Korean government announced on Wednesday, a move that will allow civilians to gain access to districts that have been off-limits for years.

The change will affect a total area of some 337 million square meters (83,275 acres), mostly in the provinces of Gangwon (63 percent) and Gyeonggi (33 percent), which border North Korea.

The adjustment is the most drastic since 1994, when the South Korean government announced it would revoke the military facility protection zone status for a combined 1.7 billion square meters of land.

The Ministry of National Defense explained in a press release on Wednesday that 24.7 million square meters (7.3 percent) of the formerly restricted areas will be consigned to local government offices, who will discuss plans with military authorities to use the land for civilian purposes.

In Seoul’s Eunpyeong and Mapo districts, as well as in Goyang, Gyeonggi, local government offices will be allowed to construct buildings or carry out development plans without negotiating with military officials as long as the buildings don’t surpass a certain height.

Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, who heads the ruling Democratic Party’s policy committee, said in a press briefing on Wednesday that he looked forward to seeing local economies bloom with the changes.

The government also announced it would simplify procedures for civilians trying to pass through civilian control zones near the inter-Korean border, saying it will install radio-frequency identification systems at all entrance control posts to save passage time. The Defense Ministry will start the project next year, and hopes the electronic system will benefit some 30,000 South Korean residents and tourists every year.

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