South Korean president opens children’s park on site that belonged to Yongsan Garrison
Stars and Stripes May 5, 2023
A repurposed section of Yongsan Garrison, once the U.S. military’s primary headquarters in South Korea, opened to the public as a park on Thursday during a ceremony convened by South Korean President Yoon.
Over 200 kids and parents attended the grand opening of the Yongsan Children's Garden, a newly developed 74-acre park in Seoul, according to a news release from the presidential office.
Yoon at the ceremony praised the park’s construction and said there are “no decent fields in our country where children … can run as much as they want,” according to the release.
The opening ceremony took place on the eve of Children’s Day, a South Korean national holiday.
The park is next to the presidential office and includes a cafe, a walking trail lined with sycamore trees, a baseball field and a soccer field. Its location is meant to “serve as a bridge between the government and the people,” the release said.
“We will continue to cultivate Yongsan Children’s Garden to make it a healthy, fun and happy place for children,” Yoon said in the release.
The park was part of Yongsan Garrison, formerly the 600-acre home to U.S. Forces Korea, U.N. Command and Combined Forces Command. After Japanese forces surrendered and withdrew from the Korean Peninsula in World War II, U.S. troops moved onto Yongsan, which translates to “dragon hill.”
Since 2002, the U.S. military has closed or partially returned around 70 outposts to the South Korean government as part of the Land Partnership Plan. The $10.7 billion relocation plan paid mostly by Seoul was designed to consolidate U.S. troops into one of two military bases: Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, roughly 40 miles south of Seoul, and U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, about 150 miles south.
Yongsan was one of the bases scheduled to be downsized and began relocating the majority of its forces starting in 2004. Sections of Yongsan were turned over to the South Korean government starting in 2020 and around 140 acres were returned as of last year, according to the presidential office’s release.
The U.S. military still maintains a small footprint in Yongsan. Roughly 500 service members, Department of Defense civilians and U.S. Embassy staffers have been stationed at Yongsan since the drawdown, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan-Casey spokesman Luciano Vera said in December.
The base's primary attraction is the Dragon Hill Lodge, a hotel serving service members and veterans. The hotel has several restaurants, a pub and shopping center.