SEOUL — The Seoul City government is one step closer to converting Yongsan Garrison into public parkland when it is returned to the South Korean government, according to government officials quoted in the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper Tuesday.

The federal government is working with Seoul’s city government to craft a special act that would prevent commercial development, Kim Chun-seok was quoted in the report as saying. Kim is vice president of the Yongsan Park Building Promotion Team under the direction of Office for Government Policy Coordination.

However, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation opposes the measure, which would change the Yongsan Park Special Act. The Seoul city government is asking that the new act strip the ministry’s right to change the usage of the park.

In a win for the Seoul government, the federal government accepted a request to clearly state the Yongsan Garrison’s exact size and boundaries in the new special act.

If the city government succeeds, 661 acres would be used for the park. Any remaining sites near the base, such as Army transportation parking lots, would be sold, Kim Seon-tae, director of the Yongsan Park Building Promotion Team, said in the report.

While no official plan exists to pay for the park, Kim said proceeds from selling the lots and supplements from the national treasury could be used.

Recently elected Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon campaigned on the promise that he would make the entire area a park when U.S. officials close the base and move U.S. Forces Korea headquarters south of Seoul, which is slated for the end of 2008.

In June 1991, the United States closed the 8th Army golf course, formerly on Yongsan Garrison, and returned the land to the South Korean government.

The former golf course at first was devoted to parkland but then the government used it for the Korean National Museum, which opened in 2005 after eight years of construction.

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