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Yankee Go Home: American Forces Move to New Korean Base

© AFP 2021 / CHOI JAE-KUUnited States Forces Korea (USFK) soldiers line-up during a display of military equipment at Yongsan US military base in Seoul. (File)
United States Forces Korea (USFK) soldiers line-up during a display of military equipment at Yongsan US military base in Seoul. (File) - Sputnik International
The Eighth US Army in South Korea has celebrated the opening of their new headquarters at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi state. This will be the first time the Army group will relocate their headquarters since they settled at Yongsan base outside of Seoul after the Korean War.

With 5.7 square miles of grounds, Camp Humphreys is intended to act as the permanent home of 42,700 American soldiers, family members and civilian employees by 2020.

The $10.7 billion relocation project has resulted in the Pentagon's largest overseas Army garrison. Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal called Humphreys "the crown jewel of overseas installations."

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The base "reflects the enduring commitment of both the ROK [Republic of Korea] and US governments to this great alliance," according to Vandal. He said that the base will improve his army group's quality of life with features such as state-of-the-art barracks, family housing, schools, a hospital, and a runway. It will also improve the soldiers' "readiness to fight tonight."

He added that 80 percent of the base's construction is complete, with the remainder to be finished by January 2019.

Along with Vandal, Korean military leaders such as Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. Four-star Korean Gen. Paik Sun-yup, a now-retired 97-year-old who commanded South Korean forces during the Korean war, also attended.

The camp's centerpiece is a bronze statue of General Walton Walker, who commanded the Eighth for the first months of the Korean War before his 1950 death in a jeep accident. The statue was relocated from the Yongsan garrison to Camp Humphreys.

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As for Yongsan, most of the land will be returned to the Korean government and turned into a public park. A few vestiges will remain, such as the Korea-US Combined Forces Command building and housing for US embassy officials.

The relocation has been in the works since 2003. At the time, there were 173 US military bases and facilities around the country, and the Korean opinion of the American forces was low after an American military vehicle accidentally struck and killed two Korean teenaged girls in June 2002. 

Consolidating the dispersed American forces is believed to improve operational effectiveness. It may also positively affect the Korean opinion of the United States, which presently sits at about 75 percent approval according to a June Pew Research Center poll.

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