Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and South Korean KF-16s taxi to the runway at Seosan Air Base, South Korea, Aug. 20, 2014.

Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and South Korean KF-16s taxi to the runway at Seosan Air Base, South Korea, Aug. 20, 2014. (Taylor Curry/U.S. Air Force)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — Roughly 130 square miles of land scattered across South Korea and reserved for military use will be turned over for local development, the Ministry of National Defense announced this week.

The ministry announced plans Monday to lift property restrictions that citizens and local governments have complained for years limit development opportunities in their communities, according to a ministry news release.

This is the South Korean military’s largest turnover of land since 2007. Military zones still account for roughly 8.2% of the country, according to the release.

Relinquishing the land will have no impact on military operations but will promote “economic revitalization” and ease building codes that limited building heights, according to the release.

Around 54 square miles in South Chungcheong province on the western coast will be turned over, the largest batch of real estate in the plan. Other areas include 18 square miles in Seoul, 0.02 square miles in Pyeongtaek city and roughly 14.6 square miles near the border with North Korea.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in a televised speech Monday at Seosan Air Base said a military runway there will be repurposed to accommodate a civilian airport by 2028.

Yoon said the military’s capabilities have changed since the 1970s, when the land restrictions were first introduced, and that “rapid urbanization of the whole country” has prompted the need for change.

“I expect this to be a model of great success and for the civilian and military to … achieve regional economic development,” he said.

Real estate previously occupied by the U.S. military has also been returned to the South Korean government as part of a $10 billion relocation plan, paid mostly by Seoul.

Around 70 U.S. military outposts have been closed or partially returned since 2002 to consolidate American forces.

Yongsan Garrison in the heart of Seoul previously housed the headquarters of U.S. Forces Korea, U.N. Command, Combined Forces Command, 2nd Infantry Division and Eighth Army. All the commands moved to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, roughly 40 miles south of the capital city, leaving about 500 troops at Yongsan.

In May, 74 acres of the garrison returned to the Seoul government was repurposed into a park that includes a baseball and soccer field.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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