SEOUL — South Korea will offer huge subsidies to its provincial governments to help them buy land once used by U.S. Forces Korea.

The idea is to give the provincial, or state, governments a boost when bidding against private developers on hundreds of acres of land once used by the U.S. military.

At the same time, the offer will encourage local leaders to preserve the land as green space, according to Choi Si-bok, who works for the South Korean prime minister’s office dealing with USFK matters.

The subsidies actually are 20-year loans from the federal government that will cover 60 to 80 percent of the land’s market value, Choi said.

In return, the provincial governments must promise to dedicate the land for public use, such as a park or street, he said.

USFK is in the midst of closing dozens of bases and centralizing its forces in Pyeongtaek, a port city on the peninsula’s western shores.

Most of those bases are in Gyeonggi province, a swath of land that stretches from the North Korean border down past Pyeongtaek, home of Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base. The city of Busan, which operates independent of provincial governments, also is eligible for the loan money, Choi said.

South Korea owns the land used by the U.S. military. As the U.S. military moves out, South Korea can hold onto the land or sell it.

If local governments like Gyeonggi want control of the land, they must buy it, Choi explained.

The offer for subsidies doesn’t extend to the city of Seoul, which lies inside Gyeonggi but operates independent of provincial governments, much like Washington, D.C.

Seoul’s new mayor, Oh Se-hoon, has criticized South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun for not protecting the entire 653 acres at Yongsan Garrison for future green space.

Roh has called for a mix of private development and parkland.

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