U.S. Forces Korea allowing archeological digs on bases
January 28, 2006
SEOUL — Last fall, at a U.S. Marine training camp along the Korean peninsula’s southeastern coast, a burial mound was discovered that dated to Korea’s unified Shilla period in the 7th and 8th centuries.
In September, South Korea’s Culture Properties Administration did a several-day inspection of the site at the Marine Expeditionary Camp in Pohang. Inspectors also spent time at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, where some buildings, including the 8th U.S. Army headquarters building, were built by Japanese during Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea, according to U.S. Forces Korea.
Previously, the Culture Properties Administration “had no access to these properties,” said Yoon Sun-ho of the administration’s excavation investigation division.
But following those preliminary inspections at Pohang and Yongsan, South Korea and USFK struck an agreement a month ago to allow for more inspections of U.S. bases to seek Korean artifacts and treasures, said officials from both nations.
The administration is eager to do more searches to discover artifacts and architecture that may document Korea’s past, according to Yoon. “The agreement lays the foundation in inspecting Korea national treasures systematically at the U.S. bases,” he said.
The Cultural Properties Administration is to take the lead on the inspections, though USFK must approve the site visits, both sides said.
Yoon said he hopes to gather information on possible artifacts, other burial mounds and architecture on U.S. military bases throughout the country. His agency also is interested in gathering data on animals and plants that might be indigenous to such areas.
Yoon said the cultural administration also wants to preserve types of buildings Japanese built during the occupation to contribute to understanding that time.
It’s unclear whether this agreement might affect the future of the U.S. bases as many across the country close and the U.S. military centralizes south of Seoul.
For now, no specific inspections have been scheduled, Yoon said, adding that the current agreement doesn’t specify who will be responsible for protecting any artifacts that might be discovered.