CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — May’s massive operation in which South Korean security forces ousted anti-U.S. protesters from farmland needed for the enlargement of Camp Humphreys has cleared the way for the project to proceed on schedule, officials said last week.

Camp Humphreys, in Pyeongtaek, is to triple in size to become the main U.S. military installation in South Korea by 2008. It’s to be home to the senior U.S. military commands now in Seoul and most U.S. forces on the peninsula.

But until May, the plan had faced delays caused mainly by large-scale, often-violent rallies by activists who oppose U.S. military presence in South Korea and by farmers and other residents resisting a South Korean government effort to evict them.

But on May 4, South Korea’s government deployed thousands of riot police and army troops to the contested area, occupied it and since have turned it into a barricaded military zone that troops garrison around the clock.

South Korean army engineer troops cordoned it off with dense concertina-wire barriers. Inside, using equipment including earth-movers, they fashioned an extensive web of obstacle belts. They include deep gaps cut into roadways to impede travel and broad, water-filled trenches with concertina wire embedded beneath the surface.

Those actions, along with continued South Korean troop and police presence, have “essentially denied access to the land by demonstrators or anyone else,” said Army Col. Michael J. Taliento Jr., commander, Area III Support Activity at Camp Humphreys.

The protection also has allowed preliminary work, which includes environmental surveying and taking soil samples, he said.

In October, workers are to begin trucking landfill material onto a 200-acre parcel within the 2,328-acre tract that South Korea’s government has set aside for the post’s expansion.

Taliento called the South Korean military and police security measures against the protesters “essential ... for the start of the physical construction.”

Under a U.S.-South Korean agreement, Camp Humphreys will be enlarged from 1,230 to 3,558 acres. An estimated $5 billion is to be spent on construction.

South Korean authorities are to turn over remaining acreage set aside for the expansion in three additional parcels within six months, said U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten.

South Korea’s government has allowed residents still living there to stay until the end of October.

The South Korean army has been maintaining units in the area on a rotating basis primarily for “access control and perimeter security,” Taliento said. They live austerely in tents and make use of rows of portable toilets.

“Since the fourth of May we’ve seen a very deliberate, very supportive, very comprehensive response and engagement by the Korean government” to enable the expansion to proceed, he said.

“And despite some of the violence and despite some of the challenges we’ve had in getting to the point we’re at,” said Taliento, “we’re clearly on track to begin developing the land and building the future Camp Humphreys.”

With new construction at Camp Humphreys in the background, Army Col. Michael Taliento talks with South Korean army officers whose troops are guarding the land from protesters and other trespassers.

Franklin Fisher / S&S

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