Yongsan base workers' rally expected to cause minor disruptions
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Gates between Yongsan Garrison’s Main and South posts will be closed temporarily during a Thursday rally by local base workers worried about losing their jobs in a proposed U.S. troop reduction, Area II officials said.
At a town hall meeting Tuesday for base residents and employees, Col. Timothy McNulty, the Area II commander, said Gates 5, 7, 8 and 10 would experience various closures as an estimated 2,000 base employees marched along the road separating the two sides of the U.S. Army’s headquarters in South Korea.
“This is a democratic society, and they are exercising their rights to express their concerns about their livelihoods. I understand that,” McNulty said. “In terms of Area II employees, if they request time off from their supervisors, and they are not mission-essential, they will be given the time off” to participate in the rally.
Base officials didn’t think the rally would become violent but are warning servicemembers, base residents and civilians to avoid the demonstration. Union officials representing the estimated 18,000 Koreans working on U.S. bases fear up to 40 percent will be laid off under a plan to remove 12,500 U.S. troops from the peninsula.
U.S. Forces Korea officials have acknowledged some 40 job reductions in recent weeks but said those were unrelated to any troop movements or base realignments.
Also during Tuesday’s town hall session, held at the Army Community Services building on South Post, officials announced a Monday “grand opening” ceremony for Burke Towers, the first U.S. government-owned and -operated apartment complex on Yongsan Garrison.
The towers physically opened June 1, after just two years of construction. The mid-rise towers contain 20 three-bedroom units, nine four-bedroom units and one five-bedroom unit. Named after 1st Lt. Lloyd D. Burke, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, the towers are being offered to field-grade officers with command-sponsored families in Seoul.
About 140 such families now are in Area II, officials said.
Tuesday’s town hall session was part of a quarterly series of meetings bringing together representatives from about two dozen base commands and service units, from the Provost Marshall Office to the Directorate of Public Works to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.
Among the other issues raised by roughly two dozen attendees was expanding recreational offerings for students on summer break.
Parking, always a hot issue on Yongsan Garrison, was discussed, as were various issues related to housing.