Mar 14, 2018
The move will help speed creation of a park at the site of the longtime military base
Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the Combined Forces Command (CFC) and US Forces Korea (USFK), announced plans on Jan. 4 to relocate the CFC headquarters from Yongsan Garrison in Seoul to the area of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) complex. With the CFC headquarters previously named as an obstacle to the building of a park at Yongsan, its relocation outside the base appears poised to add momentum to the effort.
During a speech at the Seoul Cyber University that he gave that day at the invitation of the National Unification Advisory Council (NUAC), Brooks said the CFC headquarters would be remaining in Seoul, adding that its presence alongside the MND and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) inside the MND complex in Yongsan would allow for the focusing of the alliance’s military capacities in one location.
Previously, the Hankyoreh quoted an MND official as saying on Nov. 30 that discussions were “under way on a plan to relocate the CFC headquarters, which South Korea and the US had originally planned to maintain provisionally within Yongsan Garrison, and move it outside of Yongsan Garrison as soon as possible.” Brooks’s remarks appear to confirm the report.
Soon after news of Brooks’s remarks broke, the ministry released an official confirmation the same day.
“South Korea and the US are holding discussions on relocating the CFC headquarters within the Ministry of National Defense complex after previously agreeing to maintain it temporarily within Yongsan Garrison until the time of the wartime operational control (OPCON) transfer,” the statement said.
The relocation of the CFC headquarters outside of Yongsan Garrison appears likely to inject more momentum into an effort to build a park in Yongsan, which is to enter full swing once the garrison has been returned. The 240,000-square meter CFC site has been named as an obstacle to the park construction effort, occupying fully 10% of the park’s 2.43 million square meter area and situated in a position dividing the park into north and south. The CFC relocation to the MND complex appears likely to proceed in conjunction with the relocation of other USFK units within the garrison to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which is predicted to finish by the end of this year.
South Korea and the US are reportedly in discussions now on whether CFC should join South Korean forces in the JCS headquarters next to the ministry building or take up residence in another building within the ministry complex. When the JCS headquarters was originally built, space was established ahead of time for possible joint operations with the US military, sources said. But some are also claiming additional construction will be needed if CFC occupies the JCS building due to the differing electrical systems used by each country, which includes the electrical facilities powering USFK equipment. For this reason, there are predictions that it could move into a different facility such as the Defense Installations Agency building.
At their 46th Security Consultative Meeting in Oct. 2014 during the Park Geun-hye administration, South Korea and the US agreed to leave the CFC headquarters at Yongsan Garrison. Since taking office in May 2017, however, the Moon Jae-in administration has reportedly pushed heavily to relocate it outside of the garrison.
By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer