Kunsan Air Base to expand by 315 acres
Stars and Stripes June 6, 2007
U.S. Forces Korea and South Korea are planning a large expansion of Kunsan Air Base.
A final decision on what will fill that expanded base has not been made, a USFK spokesman said Monday.
South Korean Ministry of Defense officials, however, expect two Army helicopter battalions to move there, and an Army Corps of Engineers Web site mentions past planning for such a move.
The 8th Fighter Wing currently is using South Korean relocation funds to build a fence around land bordering the base, USFK spokesman David Oten said Monday.
The defense ministry is clearing 315 acres for the expansion, a South Korean ministry official with the USFK relocation business division said Thursday.
The ministry official said they were told one of the helicopter battalions would come from Camp Page in Chuncheon, north of Seoul. The camp is now home to the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion).
Two archived pages on the Corps of Engineers’ Far East District Web site discuss the original Kunsan master plan for the 6th Cavalry Aviation Brigade — which was reassigned and partially absorbed into the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade in 2005.
On one Web page, an engineer discusses design directives for putting two helicopter battalions, which generally include about 400 soldiers each, and support facilities for the soldiers in place by December 2008.
That date no longer is accurate, Oten said.
“The master plan and construction timelines and costs are still being negotiated,” Oten said.
Of the 315 acres reserved for expansion by the ministry, 196 acres were deeded to USFK after the Korean War. However, residents have been farming the land because USFK has not been using it for military purposes.
“No-more-farming-allowed” signs now surround the area, the ministry official said.
The South Korean government must buy the remaining land from owners.
Ninety-two households are being forced to relocate because of the 119-acre purchase, the ministry official said. Of those, 31 have agreed to relocate, while the remaining households want the government to reappraise their property in hopes of getting more money.
“Some (Kunsan) residents even said they are really thankful for being able to sell their lands that no one wanted,” the ministry official said.
The land is commercially undesirable because of noise coming from the base, Kunsan city public affairs officer Ku Seong-sul said. However, the federal government wants to pay about $65 per pyong (about 35.6 square feet) for land worth about $108 per pyong, Ku said.
“Of course, no one is happy with this compensation after they have been suffering a long time from noise and property devaluation because of it,” Ku said.
“However, we are not opposed to the (expansion) plan because it concerns national security,” he later added.
The barbed-wire fence line surrounding the land should be complete by the end of this year, the ministry official said.
Officials fear protests at Kunsan
South Korean officials say they hope they won’t see the types of violent protests at Kunsan Air Base that have at times plagued plans to expand Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.
But the potential is there, a South Korean ministry official with the U.S. Forces Korea relocation business division acknowledged.
Pyeongtaek protester Rev. Moon Jung-hyun’s brother, Moon Gyu-hyun, is forming another protest group, he said.
“We are very concerned that hard-liners aggressively involved in the anti-Pyeongtaek expansion movement could come here (to Kunsan) to set off another anti-relocation movement again,” the ministry official said.
Yoon Chul-soo, the leader of a Kunsan civic group, said the expansion would upset his members.
“This is an ambitious plan of USFK wanting the entire city of Kunsan,” Yoon said. “It is going to become the second Pyeongtaek crisis.”
Kunsan residents have been holding small, nonviolent protests outside the base gates regarding a nearby targeting range on a regular basis this year, but haven’t made relocation plans the target of their ire at this point, officials said.
— Erik Slavin and Hwang Hae-rym