After much delay, the Eighth U.S. Army for the first time since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War finally moved out of the Yongsan base in central Seoul to join a larger and integrated U.S. base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, about 35 kilometers south of the South Korean capital.
The enlarged Camp Humphreys has become the largest U.S. Army garrison overseas, commanding a space of 14.67 million square meters, and home to 42,700 soldiers and their families scattered in 173 U.S. military bases and facilities across Korea.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the Eighth Army, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday called the $10.7 billion project “the crown jewel of overseas installations.”
The relocation project first agreed upon Presidents Roh Moo-hyun and George W. Bush in 2003 would be completed over the next 18 months.
The Pyeongtaek base is close to the Osan Air Base, Pyeongtaek Port and the railway, making it easier than Yongsan for American troops to coordinate reinforcements in case of war.
Seoul is said to have contributed about 9 trillion won ($7.8 billion) plus the land in Pyeongtaek, while Washington paid 7 trillion won. Seoul is expected to turn a portion of the vacated land in Yongsan into a public park.
By Ahn Doo-won
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