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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — In the latest twist to the search for a new U.S. Embassy site in Seoul, South Korean government officials are suggesting a somewhat surprising piece of land: Camp Coiner.

The camp, adjacent to the U.S. Forces Korea headquarters at Yongsan Garrison, is slated to be handed over with the rest of the garrison when U.S. forces move to Pyongtaek in 2007.

But this week, South Korean officials floated the camp as a possible compromise location. A previously agreed-upon plot in Seoul has been derailed; civic groups claim the site contains historical artifacts.

“If Camp Coiner is chosen, because the land is owned by the Ministry of Defense, all one would have to do is switch it for the old site of Gyeonggi Girls High School, where the embassy was originally scheduled to move,” several Korean newspapers quoted an unidentified government official as saying.

“After the American garrison at Yongsan has been relocated, only the U.S. Embassy would remain,” the official, who briefed Korean reporters this week, was quoted as saying.

“Because Camp Coiner is big, it has the advantage of being able to hold both the embassy and housing for the embassy staff.”

Officially, the government also is considering a site in the Songhyeong neighborhood in Seoul; that site is being questioned because the neighborhood has zoning laws limiting the height of any buildings to under five stories. The chancery and housing for embassy staff, if not built vertically, would have too big a footprint to fit into the site, officials said.

The same civic groups also say the Songhyeong site is no good because it falls within a “historic belt” that runs near a series of old palaces in the city.

Of course, the South Korean officials acknowledge, none of this has been proposed to the U.S. Embassy yet.

The U.S. Embassy remains “awaiting the decision of the Korean government on these property issues,” an embassy spokeswoman has said.

For now, the proposed $240 million chancery project remains stalled; originally, the new compound was to be finished this summer.


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