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U.S. Set to Remove Military Presence from Seoul

The United States of America has marked a day in the history of the world by formally ending it seven-decade-old military presence in South Korea’s capital. With the opening of a new headquarters farther from North Korean artillery range, most troops have already transferred to the new location, and the remaining ones will move by the end of 2018.

The U.S. military has been headquartered in Seoul’s Central Yongsan neighborhood since the American troops first arrived in the country at the end of World War II. The Garrison was a symbol of the U.S.–South Korea alliance, but its occupation was also a long-running source of friction.

Located in the western port city of Pyeongtaek, the new 3,510 acre command cost $11 billion to build and is the largest overseas U.S. base. South Korea paid about 90% of the cost to build it.

“This headquarters’ building, within the headquarters’ complex that surrounds it, represents the significant investment in the long-term presence of U.S. forces in Korea,” Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said during the opening ceremony. “U.S. Forces Korea will remain the living proof of the American commitment to the alliance.”

In a message read out at the ceremony by an aide, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the “headquarters is the cornerstone of the U.S.–South Korea alliance.”

“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 said in the statement.

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The relocation of the camp is a part of a broader plan where U.S.A. wants to realign its 28,500 troops in S. Korea and their bases into two major hubs: one in Pyeongtaek and the other in the South-Eastern city of Daegu. According to officials, they want to move the troops out of highly populated areas.

“Modern warfare is all about concentrating and deploying forces quickly, and Pyeongtaek in these terms has many advantages because it can really function as an outlet, unlike Yongsan, which was stuck in the middle of a population center,” said Yun Jiwon, a security professor at Pyeongtaek University.

This move of the Camp has also resulted in the move of U.S. forces away from the hundreds of North Korean artillery guns targeting the Seoul metropolitan area. However, Camp Humphreys is still within reach of newer weapons, such as the 300 mm guns North Korea revealed in 2015.

The land that was so far being used by the Yongsan Garrison will now be handed over to the S. Korean government who hopes to use the Seoul site as a central park.