US Ends Seventy Years in Seoul, South Korea – No, Trump Didn’t Do It

 In Military

The US formally ended 70 years in Seoul, South Korea on Friday with the opening of a new facility at Camp Humphreys, farther away from the contentious border with North Korea. No, the US isn’t leaving. No, Trump didn’t do it. The move has been planned for over a decade.

The US had been stationed in the Yongsan nieghborhood since WWII. But the military’s presence there was a constant source of anti-American sentiment.

By 1988, college students had begun to view the presence of the US as “oppressive.”  For the most part, the gratitude of the generation that knew of America’s role in helping their nation during the war was slipping away.

“Questions about the role of America have been in Korean minds for a long time, but they haven’t been discussed openly. Americans say they are losing economic power, but we see they are rich, much richer than us. American pressure makes Korean farmers and workers mad. American realpolitik has led it to deal with immoral and illegitimate regimes.” Lee Chul, an opposition politician

When the complaints moved from the campuses to mainstream South Korea, the US was faced with a dilemma. How to let South Korea know we have their backs, and at the same time satisfy those who were angry? Solution? Move a bit farther away and still stay in country.

The new facility is 45 miles south of Seoul at Camp Humphreys. It took over ten years to complete the 3,510-acre command due to funding problems and construction issues. It should hav ebeen builty by 2008, but as with any project that takes too long, the project ended up costing nearly $11 Billion, most of which was paid for by South Korea.

Here’s the new base:

A Base for the future

The new command is now the largest overseas US base. Its location next to a US Air Base at the South Korean port city of Pyeongtaek makes it  perfect for “rapid movement” in case of crisis. Even though it moved from the center of Seoul, it is still within reach of North Korea’s newer 300 millimeter artillery.

Stars and Stripes reported,

A secure operations center also is not expected to open until January 2021 — although a temporary facility is being built in the meantime, according to a timeline laid out at a recent town-hall meeting on Yongsan.

The 210th Field Artillery Brigade will stay on Camp Casey near the border until the South Koreans have developed the military capabilities to replace it. And the United States will maintain the mountainous Rodriguez Live Fire Complex for training.

The relocation puts the bulk of the some 28,500 American servicemembers, civilian contractors and family members at a safer distance from North Korea’s massive arsenal of conventional weapons poised on the border, just 35 miles north of Seoul.

Whether or not the new facility is “safer” will depend on the North Korean leadership, which frankly, hasn’t been all that helpful even after the recent summit. We do hope that such a large US base won’t also become a target. Remember what happened at Pearl Harbor with all of the US ships lined up neatly in a row…

“In opening a new era of the U.S. forces headquarters in Pyeongtaek, I hope that the U.S.-South Korea alliance will develop beyond a ‘military alliance’ and a ‘comprehensive alliance’ and become a ‘great alliance.” Moon Jae-in statement

We hope so too, Sir.

 

Featured photo: Screenshot of opening ceremony from South China Morning Post

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