SEOUL — Seoul city officials refused to attend a Thursday morning ceremony celebrating the future use of returned U.S. military land, officials confirmed.

Newly elected Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon boycotted the National Museum of Korea ceremony because he opposes the government’s desire to develop high-rise residences and businesses where the U.S. Army’s Yongsan Garrison now sits, according to Lee Duk-su, Seoul City Hall’s Urban Planning Bureau general director.

Oh campaigned on the promise that he’ll push to make the entire 653 acres a public green space when U.S. officials close the base and move U.S. Forces Korea headquarters south of Seoul in 2008.

In late July, South Korea announced only a portion of the land would be set aside to create what will be called the Yongsan National History Park, while the rest would be used for urban development. Officials haven’t said how big the proposed history park will be or how much it will cost.

That plan, Lee told Stars and Stripes on Thursday, neglects “the strong wishes and hopes of not only Seoul citizens” but also of the rest of South Korea.

About 600 people attended the 40-minute ceremony to hear South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun praise the Ministry of Construction plan. The ministry has forwarded the plan for final approval through the National Assembly, which is to vote sometime next month.

According to local news reports, Roh said during Thursday’s speech that he understands why Seoul wants the larger park but the project is of national importance and will help South Korea pay to help move the U.S. military.

Seoul officials also are incensed that the national government wants Seoul to help fund building, managing and maintaining the park, Lee said.

He said the city would be willing to pay only under the original plan of using all 653 acres for park land. As for the ministry’s proposal, Lee said, “we cannot accept this absurdity.”

Officials have not estimated what the park will cost.

Chon Chang-hyun, a park construction committee official, said Thursday that the goal is to complete the park in 2045 — marking 100 years of independence from Japan.

Officials want the South Korean public’s involvement in developing the park, Chon said.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now