US Ends 70 Years of Military Presence in South Korea’s Capital of Seoul

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The United States formally ended 70 years of military presence in South Korea’s Capital Seoul and opened a new headquarters farther from the border of North Korea. The new headquarters is located at Pyeongtaek, about 70 km south of Seoul. The U.S. military had been headquartered in Seoul’s central Yongsan neighbourhood since American troops first arrived at the end of World War II.

The US and South Korea are treaty allies and for decades US Forces Korea (USFK) have been headquartered in Yongsan. The Yongsan Garrison had been a symbol of the U.S.-South Korea alliance aimed at deterring a North Korean attack. It has also been a source of anti-American sentiment among many South Koreans.

The two allies agreed as long ago as 1990 to relocate the headquarters to Camp Humphreys, an existing base in Pyeongtaek, around 60 kilometres (38 miles) south of the capital. But the project was delayed for years by resident protests, financial issues and extensive construction work.

At a ceremony to mark the relocation of the headquarter, US Forces Korea commander General Vincent Brooks said “Today marks a historic milestone in the history of the United Nations Command which began in 1950 and the history of the ROK [South Korea]-US alliance.

The US has 28,500 troops stationed in the South to defend it from the nuclear-armed North, and the move comes only weeks after Trump and Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un had an unprecedented summit in Singapore.

The new 3,510-acre command was built at a cost of $11 billion and is the largest overseas US base. The construction work took about 10 years. More than 90% of the project was funded by the South Korean government. The new U.S. command is an optimal location that allows for the rapid movement and concentration of troops in a crisis.

Camp Humphreys incorporates a total of 513 buildings including schools, shops and banks spread over 14.7 million square metres, and will accommodate 43,000 people including soldiers and their family members by the end of 2022.

The headquarters building represented “a significant investment in the long-term presence of the US forces in Korea”, Brooks said, adding “USFK will remain the living proof of the American commitment to the alliance”.