YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — After seven years of sometimes prickly negotiations, construction will start next week on a new landing pad for U.S. and South Korean helicopters.

South Korea’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism will pay for construction of a landing area — to replace the current helicopter pad at Yongsan Garrison — to a spot behind the Defense Ministry under an agreement reached in May, said Lt. Col. Kelly Slaven, theater master planner for U.S. Forces Korea.

The current helicopter pad H-208, located on south post near Gate 17, sits in front of South Korea’s new National Museum, due to open in October 2005. For years, South Korean officials have expressed concern over helicopters passing in front of the museum.

The new site offers the advantage of use by both militaries once Yongsan Garrison is returned to South Korea in 2008, he said.

“This is a long term solution that we have been looking for,” Slaven said.

The actual landing area will be on the Defense Ministry’s compound, which runs adjacent to Yongsan’s south post, currently the site of tennis courts and a couple of buildings, Slaven said.

But the approach area will extend from 10th Corps Boulevard north to the Defense Ministry, Slaven said.

Around 10 duplexes — mostly officer housing — will be razed to accommodate the approach area.

While the landing area is small, safety regulations require a clear approach zone for helicopters once they descend below 150 feet, Slaven said.

The approach area will be built up somewhat to make it a smooth, even grade through to the landing area, Slaven said.

About 15 houses on South Post will be soundproofed, Slaven said.

Additionally, a 21-foot high sound-dampening wall will be built to surround the actual landing area to reduce noise, he said.

The number of landings will be reduced, Slaven said. It’s expected around four to five helicopters will use the new landing area daily, down from the eight to 10 now using H-208.

Chinook helicopters — dual rotor transports — will not be allowed to use the new landing area, Slaven said.

Further, only medical-related flights and those with general officers will be allowed, Slaven added.

Although construction is estimated to take a year, helicopters could start using the landing area as soon as February while other site work continues, Slaven said.

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