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Defense Ministry’s Special Bill Raises Controversy

Posted June. 11, 2004 21:36,   


Controversy is raised over the special bill designed by the Ministry of Defense. According to the bill, the Minister of Defense can change the usage of the land that the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) will return to the Korean government, including the Yongsan Garrison site.

Once the bill passes the National Assembly, the Seoul metropolitan government would have to scrap its plan to construct a national park on the Yongsan site.

On June 11, the Ministry of Defense and the Seoul metropolitan government announced that the ministry laid out “a special bill to support the Pyungtaek area in the occasion of the USFK base relocation,” aiming to enact it in April next year.

Article 12, clause 2 of the bill stipulates that the Minister of Construction and Transportation and the heads of the related local governments must change the usage or cancel urban planning facilities of the land provided to or returned from USFK if requested so by the Minister of Defense.

Based on the bill, the Ministry of Defense reportedly plans to make up for the relocation cost by selling some parts of the Yongsan Garrison site by changing the usage of the land from green zones to commercial or semi-residential areas.

“It would be more appropriate for the government to turn Yongsan Garrison site into a national park considering the historical significance of the area,” a Seoul city official said. He added, “It is virtually impossible for the city government to buy the land to create the park.”

He also pointed out that the special bill transcends the law by enabling the Defense Minister to conduct urban planning.

The USFK relocation preparatory office, a consultative body of the Ministry of Defense and related organizations, clarified its position in a statement on June 11 saying, “The controversial clause was included to prevent possible failure of capital procurement triggered by discretionary changes in the use of land by the local government.”

“The use of returned land will be decided after close consultations with related local governments,” said the office and added, “We are running a park advisory commission to search for the ways to utilize the Yongsan area once it is returned.”

Kang-Myoung Chang Ho-Won Choi tesomiom@donga.com bestiger@donga.com