South Korea plans $19 billion upgrade for Pyeongtaek
SEOUL — The South Korean government this week released details of a plan to spend $19 billion to improve infrastructure, upgrade technology and expand public space in Pyeongtaek, the future home to much of the U.S. military in South Korea.
The 15-year plan calls for changes from improving the city’s seaport to building a high- tech agricultural center to soundproofing buildings, according to the Korean Ministry of Government Administration and House Affairs. Some of the money also will go toward buying land to house U.S. military operations there, said Park Yong-uk, a ministry official.
The plan also includes estimated growth projections for Pyeongtaek as the U.S. military moves in. One estimate projects that Pyeongtaek’s population will more than double in the next 15 years, from 360,000 to 800,000 by 2020.
Of the $19 billion, about $4.4 billion is expected to come from public coffers, according to Park. South Koreans are looking to private investors and businesses to fund the remaining construction and growth, he said.
The U.S. and Korean governments already have agreed to downsize U.S. forces here by about 12,500 to about 25,000, and to move the headquarters of those forces in three years to Camp Humphreys, a base in Pyeongtaek expected to triple in size.
The decision has drawn criticism from some Korean groups. Some say the expansion will adversely affect the community’s traffic, real estate and crime patterns. Others complain the land purchases needed for the larger base will displace rice farmers, and thousands are expected to protest this weekend.
Yet, some say the expansion will prove profitable for the city. As part of its $19 billion proposal, the ministry included data estimating how the U.S. move will influence Pyeongtaek during the next 15 years:
The city’s eligible work force would almost double, from 187,000 to 360,000.The city’s average annual salary would jump from about $14,000 per person in 2000 to $42,000 by 2020.Because the proposal includes spending money over several years, the Assembly would have to approve funds each year.U.S. Forces Korea officials had no comment Tuesday on the plan.