SEOUL — Gas prices are dropping, troops once again are allowed to hang out in Seoul’s Hongdae party district and there won’t be any Fourth of July fireworks at Yongsan Garrison this year.

These were among hot topics addressed with the local community during an Area II town hall meeting broadcast from 11 a.m. to noon Monday on American Forces Network radio.

Col. Ron Stephens, Area II commander, hosted the program with Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Witt and a group of “subject-matter experts” representing the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, the commissary, the military police, the hospital, the dental clinic, the equal opportunity office and other community services.

Witt confirmed the “rumor” that the Hongdae district was removed from the off-limits areas in Seoul. And Area II officials said late Monday that Hongdae has been off the list since May 1, following a combined threat assessment by Korean National Police, U.S. military police and force protection officials.

Troops had been barred from visiting the eclectic neighborhood of bars, discos and nightclubs since Dec. 2, 2002, because of what Area II called “force-protection concerns.”

“It’s a real nice area of town,” Witt said. He said the troops should enjoy the area, but that they should “be safe down there … don’t abuse it.”

As for the gas prices, AAFES Area I and II general manager Betty O’Brien said anyone needing to fill up a tank should hold off a few days.

When contacted Monday afternoon, she confirmed that gas prices will drop beginning Saturday.

The new prices, she said, are:

Unleaded: From $2.91 to $2.88 a gallonPremium: From $3.12 to $3.08 a gallonDiesel fuel, however, will remain at $2.90 a gallon, she said.

And when the community gathers for the July Fourth celebration at Yongsan, they shouldn’t expect fireworks.

Stephens said safety concerns prevent him from allowing the annual display.

“Last year, we just about caught the elementary school on fire,” he said. The problem, he added, is that there isn’t an open space above which to shoot the fireworks. And the unexploded fireworks that rain down during a typical show also cause a safety hazard.

“No, we won’t have fireworks this year,” he said.

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