Obama to address Yongsan troops, families on Thursday
SEOUL – President Obama is scheduled to speak Thursday at U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, the same day large and possibly violent protests are expected in Seoul, military officials announced Monday.
Obama’s visit includes a 10:30 a.m., invitation-only speech at Collier Field House, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the war memorial on 8th Army Drive about 11:30 a.m. He is expected to leave the garrison by noon.
About 1,400 servicemembers and their families will attend the speech, with invitations being distributed through chains of command, military officials said. Civilians and South Korean workers will not be invited, officials said.
Obama arrives in Seoul this week to attend the G-20 summit at the COEX convention complex on Thursday and Friday. The economic summit will be attended by 32 heads of state and more than 10,000 participants, and is expected to be marked by major protests and transportation delays due to heightened security.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert, which expires Saturday, for Americans living or traveling in South Korea.
Approximately 20,000 anti-globalization protesters marched and chanted Sunday in front of Seoul’s city hall, and riot police fired pepper spray on those who attempted to march down side streets, according to The Associated Press.
Scheduled protests with a potential for violence are planned throughout the city on Thursday, beginning with demonstrations outside subway stations from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. More than 10,000 protesters are expected to gather in front of the War Memorial Museum next to Yongsan Garrison from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Garrison officials are urging the U.S. military community to stay home both days. Two roads outside the National Museum of Korea, adjacent to Yongsan, will be closed from 2 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Thursday because of a reception and dinner being held there for G-20 participants.
The president’s visit will shut down several major roads on base and delay the opening of some businesses, including the commissary and post exchange. Pedestrians can line X Corps Boulevard and 8th Army Drive to watch the president’s motorcade as he travels to the war memorial, but the motorcade will not stop and vehicle windows will be tinted and rolled up, said Yongsan commander Col. Bill Huber. Spectators will not be allowed to come within 75 yards of the war memorial, Huber said.
Schools and military offices will be closed on Thursday for the Veteran’s Day holiday and on Friday for a liberal leave holiday. Civilian workers are also encouraged to take a liberal leave day on Friday, Huber said.
U.S. Forces Korea personnel are prohibited from traveling within a 600-meter radius of the COEX complex on Thursday and Friday unless they live there or are on official business. Military uniforms cannot be worn outside the installation through Friday with the exception of travel to and from duty, according to the garrison.