Traditional Korean Dancers perform at the grand opening of the new Kunsan BX/Mini-Mall at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

Traditional Korean Dancers perform at the grand opening of the new Kunsan BX/Mini-Mall at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. (Michael R. Holzworth / Courtesy of USAF)

Residents of the relatively isolated U.S. air base in Kunsan, South Korea, celebrated the greatly expanded base exchange’s grand opening Tuesday with a mix of Korean and American traditions.

As dancers in colorful Korean garb entertained the crowd, hundreds lined up for a bit of shopping and a taste of fried chicken. The new Army and Air Force Exchange Service facility at Kunsan Air Base offers more than double the space of the old one, thanks mainly to an addition housing facilities including expanded food services. “As soon as we cut the ribbon, we had about 200 to 300 people flood into the shopping mall,” Lee Holloway, AAFES Central Exchange general manager, said in a telephone interview as he watched the scene.

The biggest line, he said, was at the newly opened Popeye’s Chicken franchise: Some 100 airmen were waiting to get a meal.

“It was something Kunsan had not had, so the Wolfpack warriors are certainly enjoying that,” Holloway said, referring to the 8th Fighter Wing’s nickname.

The grand opening celebration kicked off around 10 a.m., officials said, with the ribbon cutting and presentations by AAFES and fighter wing leadership. AAFES brought in Korean folk dancers and a live band and two lucky airmen won 65-inch televisions in a prize drawing.

“We have feverishly anticipated the opening of this facility since the groundbreaking on October 17th, 2003. This is a $4 million expansion to the existing facility and is truly a part of Kunsan’s vision for the future,” said Col. William R. Becker, 8th Fighter Wing vice commander, according to Kunsan public affairs officials.

Up next for AAFES is a 170,000-square-foot Osan Air Base shopping complex to incorporate a base exchange, post office and 26 other services. It’s to open Nov. 20.

Earlier this year, Kunsan also opened an expanded commissary, with twice the space of the old store and 1,000 more line items for sale. The new commissary is near the exchange, base library and community center, centrally locating more of the base services, officials said.

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