Shuttered US Army base in South Korea to become a 24-acre park
Stars and Stripes February 15, 2023
UIJEONGBU, South Korea — A section of a former U.S. Army outpost north of Seoul is destined to become a neighborhood park now that Uijeongbu city has secured project money, local officials announced recently.
The commissioned park will be completed by December 2025 and span 24 acres in Uijeongbu, which is surrounded by mountain hiking trails and wildlife, according to a news release from the city on Feb. 9.
“We will do our best to come up with a plan to create a neighborhood park with a natural setting where 470,000 people in the city can love and relax,” deputy mayor An Dong-gwang said in the release.
The city purchased the site from the South Korean government for roughly $4.5 million and later received $9.4 million in funding from the Korea Land and Housing Corp. for restoration projects, according to the release.
Camp Essayons occupied the site until 2007 as the Army shuttered or partially returned around 40 outposts throughout the country and turned the land over to the South Korean government.
The closures were part of an agreement by the United States military “to create a more suitable environment for the stationing of U.S. Forces Korea and to enhance force protection …,” according to the Land Partnership Plan signed in 2002 by the former USFK and South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense.
Camp Essayons is named after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ French motto, which translates to “let us strive” or “let us try,” according to a handbook from the U.S. Army Engineer School History Office.
The nearly 76-acre outpost once housed about 600 soldiers from the since deactivated 102nd Military Intelligence Battalion. It included a gymnasium, movie theater and library, but lacked a commissary.
The site now houses the Eulji Medical Center, a hospital connected to the Eulji University school system and the Northern Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education, a project official said by phone Monday. South Korean government officials customarily speak to the media on the condition of anonymity.
“Building a park will probably be a good thing,” Shim Joon Ho, a 30-year Uijeongbu resident and a taxi driver, told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday. Shim recalled driving a lot of U.S. troops during his work shift and said that business has struggled since they left the city.
The majority of the roughly 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea are stationed at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek and U.S. Army Garrison Daegu.
Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.