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SEOUL — A city district here plans to rename a section of parkland near Daemo Mountain after the U.S. 8th Army and to plant 1,000 trees to honor the relationship between Koreans and Americans, according to officials from the Army and Gangnam District.

The parkland rededication and the ceremony — scheduled near Korea’s Arbor Day in early April — marks one of the few times a Seoul city district has dedicated part of its landscape to the U.S. military, both South Korean and U.S. officials said.

“It’s a big deal,” said Army 1st Lt. John Kim, who is helping to coordinate the event. “This is definitely not a common occurrence.”

The April 1 ceremony also will honor the American servicemembers who have died in Iraq after deploying from South Korea last year, according to Maj. Iris Cowher, who heads the Good Neighbor Program for 8th Army.

A plaque will be placed near a tree for each fallen soldier, and a larger stone inscription will stand at the head of the new forest to explain the area’s new name, she said.

The tree-planting idea came from a new alliance between Gangnam Mayor Kwon Moon-yong and 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Charles Campbell, Cowher said. The two men late last year signed a “memorandum of understanding,” a pledge to work together on community projects and to exchange cultural experiences between the two nations.

Gangnam District sits south of the Han River and has become one of the wealthiest parts of Seoul in recent years. It’s home to the Coex Mall, the Apgujeong neighborhood and shopping district and the headquarters for some of South Korea’s largest companies, like Samsung, according to Joo Mee-sun, who works for Gangnam District.

The Gangnam government has helped introduce U.S. soldiers to Lunar New Year traditions, and in late April, the 8th Army Band is planning a concert at Daemo Mountain, Cowher said.

On April 1, 100 U.S. soldiers will plant the 1,000 trees, which are being donated by Gangnam, Cowher said. Students from Seoul American High School also will be on hand to place a plaque honoring Capt. Sean Sims, a 1990 SAHS graduate who died in Iraq last year.

Korea’s Arbor Day is April 5 and typically is observed with more reverence than Arbor Day in America, both Cowher and Joo said.

During the Korean War, pounding artillery and military needs stripped much of Korea of its forests. In recent years, Koreans have been working to recreate their forests.

“It’s a concerted effort to bring back forests and trees,” Cowher said last week. “In America, let’s face it, we take our trees for granted.”


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