Yongsan — a self-licking ice cream cone?

The NYT has a piece on the real estate wet-dream that is Yongsan. Budaechigae picks out the relevant bits, but I found this line particularly amusing:

Inside Yongsan, some American officers recall that the United States first agreed to leave Yongsan in 1988. The move was delayed because successive South Korean governments never found a suitable site outside Seoul.

“I bet my paycheck that while I am in the Army it will never happen,” said one American officer here. “Twenty years from now, I will still be reading about it. It is a great political platform for some people. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone.”

This may not be the safest bet, though:

But Pentagon planners vow that the move from Seoul will not be stopped. To sweeten the shift, the United States has promised to spend $11 billion over three years to upgrade American forces in South Korea.

“We move this time, or we just leave,” said Scott Snyder, a Korea specialist who works for The Asia Foundation, a research institute. “A brigade could be relocated to Iraq, and then not come back.”

Nice way to put that, Scott.

  • Fred Merchant

    I agree that Yongsan will never move until the US moves out of Korea and/or the MND (Ministry of National Defense) moves from Seoul. This is for several issues.

    1) The Korean military loves having Yongsan Garrision right next door. For one thing, all the demonstrations are 1/2km down the street from the NMD offices.

    2) The Korean Generals have a very short drive to talk with their US counterparts at the White House on Yongsan.

    3) The Generals have access to American style food and drink at much lower prices than in Seoul at Dragon Hill Lodge and Hartell House.

    4) American higher-ups like being in Seoul, where all the action is.

    5) The real cost of moving Yongsan is 4 to 5 times higher than the 2 to 3 billions US$’s estimated.

    The 11 billions US$ that the US has promised is for weapons systems and direct support, not for building projects. There is almost no MILCON (US military construction) funds available at Yongsan, Camp Humpherys, or Osan AB in the next 2 or 3 funding cycles. The so called War in Iraq ia sucking huge amounts of DoD $’s from the budget.

    In the meantime, the buildings and conditions on Yongsan continue to deteriorate. In 1988, when moving Yongsan was 1st discussed all construction projects were stopped. the cost of moving in 1996 when the move project stopped the cost was up to $8 billion. The Asian money crisis stopped all speculation and finall Yongsan got some much needed repair and new construction money. Then it all stopped last year. $200 million in projects were cancelled.

    Some units will be moved down south, but the reality of the cost of the move is staggering.

    In 2001 a Land Partnership plan was developed that would have created 20 enduring US posts/bases in Korea over 10 to 15 years. It was well conceived and though out. But it has been abandoned by the Pentagon.

    One reason the US is considering moving troops from Korea is that they don’t need Korea’s permission to remove troops. To move troops from Japan the legislature must approve. The people of Okinowa want the Marines to leave, but Toyko wants them to stay.

    We should not assume that China or Russia will always be our friend. China will do what it sees is best for China, not anyone else, best for the Han chinese and the “folks” in power.

    The current US Administartion has a peculiar view of the new military. Based on remote wars using bombs and missles to devistate the emeny. The formula only sees ground troops as support and policemen for the clean up. Iraq has proven how wrong that is.

    We need to be realistic and honest and the pros and cons and costs of moving. Either do it and be done with it, develop a model for orderly change (like the Land Partnership Plan), or forget it, but don’t keep delaying and harm the soldiers, civialians, and Korean people.