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Present Conditions of USFK Grant Lands

There are approximately 100 US bases (including training fields and other military facilities) occupying 60,447 acres in ROK. According to the Base Structure Report, released in July 2004 by the US Department of Defense, there are a total of 108 US bases (and facilities), consisting of 83 USFK Army bases, 6 naval bases, and 19 air bases. These are based on statistics from September 2003.

According to the ROK Ministry of National Defense 2004 Defense White Paper, 33,000 USFK troops are stationed in the ROK. However, through the FOTA agreement, 5,000 troops  were withdrawn in 2004, and an additional 3,000 troops will be reduced in 2005.

USFK arrived on the Peninsula in 1945 when the Korean Peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonialism. Except for a few military advisory groups, US forces had withdrawn from the Peninsula by 1949. But when the Korean War broke out in 1950, US military forces were dispatched to the Peninsula. Based upon the Korean-US Mutual Defense Agreement, since the end of the war in 1953, US forces had been stationed in ROK. However, SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement - Agreement under Article 4 of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of Korea and the United States of America, Regarding Facilities and Areas and the States of United Armed Forces in the Republic of Korea) was entered into force since 1966. The SOFA stipulates the provisions for military facilities and areas, and its management for USFK. Until then, there was no basis to administer the land occupied by the US military for 13 years. Since then, the ROK government has accepted the use of land by USFK successively. However, the ROK excluded the procedure for land expropriation or lease contracts. Thus the conflict with land owners has become more aggravated.

USFK grant lands are provided for free as stipulated in SOFA. USFK land holding is also indefinite as outlined in the 1953 US-ROK Mutual Defense Agreement. Recently, public criticism has increased over strategic flexibility as the role of USFK transforms from its previous defensive role on the Korean Peninsula to a more offensive task force, The South Korean government has no obligation to provide any facilities or areas - strategic flexibility steps over the boundaries of the US-ROK Mutual Defense Agreement. For instance, last August, about 3,600 troops were dispatched to Iraq. They were trained at a US base in Dongducheon. But since these troops were used as part of an unjustifiable war, rather than the defense of the Peninsula, this dispatch violated the Mutual Agreement.

In February 2000, the ROK government and USFK officials began discussing the LPP(Land Partnership Plan) to return unnecessary parts of the grant land, and to consolidate, realign, or close down existing bases on the Peninsula. However, the process not only includes returning land, but also grants additional land space from Pyeongtaek, Euijeongbu, Ichon, and Pohang to USFK. Thus the LPP has faced increasing resistance from local residents.

Both the ROK and the US have discussed sensitive issues such as the relocation of the Second Infantry Division and Yongsan Garrison to the southern part of the Han River. Other issues discussed include the reduction of USFK forces, the transfer of ten operational tasks previously conducted by USFK to ROK forces, and the expanded military role of USFK. Negotiations concluded in 2004 according to U.S. plans. The plan was then approved by the ROK National Assembly.


¢º Military Transformation and USFK Base Realignment

- Realignment of USFK Under Military Transformation

According to US troop redeployment plans in Northeast Asia, the Second Infantry Division will transform into a  "Unit of Action" (UA) with it divisional headquarters reorganized and modernized. This implies a complete restructuring of USFK. This transformation is part of the Bush Administration's New Military Strategy. The plan includes the complete transformation of USFK and the redeployment of US forces abroad. ¡®Strategic flexibility¡¯ will build up advanced military capabilities to enhance USFK fighting power. Meanwhile, USFK troops will be rapidly redeployed around the globe. USFK realignment will also shift the Second Infantry Division to the Pyeongtaek area, where a military harbor and an air base currently exist.

- Build-Up of Air and Naval Forces

Several cases of military base build-up are taking place on the Peninsula, particularly in the western region: Military build-up is taking place at Suwon, Pyeongtaek, Gunsan, and Gwangju air bases. The build-up enhances the accessibility of forces and munitions through the Pyeongtaek harbor. The plan also reverts the reclaimed land of Saemangum into USFK grant lands. These changes suggest that USFK's role has expanded to contain the so-called potential "China threat" in the near future.

Controversies also exist regarding the expansion of South Korea's military role under US military transformation. The US urges the ROK to increase the number of training facilities for joint use. The ROK announced that it will build naval harbors in Hwasoon and Jeju Island, and a missile unit in Moonhaksan and Incheon. These projects are in conjunction with USFK transformation.

- Pyeongtaek Base Consolidation

USFK redeployment is centered around the relocation of the Second Infantry Division and Yongsan Base south of the Han River to Pyeongtaek. As the Second Infantry Division relocated from the front line to rear positions, front-line duty has been transferred to the ROK military. That is, the USFK transferred to South Korea its mission of defending the Peninsula against a North Korean attack. Instead, USFK will be used more broadly to stabilize the Asia-Pacific region. This includes not only North Korea, but China as well.

The transfer to Pyeongtaek, and away from North Korean artillery range, is a result of USFK's expanded role. Pyeongtaek is equipped with a harbor and an airport. This allows flexibility when deploying troops outside of the Peninsula, and minimizes risk in an offensive first strike against North Korea. Also, Pyeongtaek is strategically located to contain or attack China, which has been identified as a potential threat to the US.

However, military transformation will heighten tensions against DPRK and China, increasing the likelihood of conflict even without any provocation from South Korea. USFK base consolidation and realignment to Pyeongtaek presents frightening consequences. In short, it threatens peace on the Korean peninsula.


¢º Infringement Against Pyeongtaek Residents and Their Right for Survival

According to base enlargement plans, about 523 acres in the Seotan area of Pyeongtaek (near the air base) and 2,328 acres in the Paengseong area (near the army base), will be handed over to the US. There are 535 households totalling 1,372 residents in the planned areas. It should be noted that in South Korea, Pyeongtaek is famous for its rice.

The land in Pyeongtaek was reclaimed and cultivated by the residents of Paengseong themselves. Hence they truly believe the land is their life. This is why we must reconsider whether the new bases are worth destroying the homes and lands of Pyeongtaek residents. Is it worth violating resident rights and the destruction of an entire community? In addition to base enlargement, we must also carefully assess the base return plan, which will be implemented in other areas of the Peninsula.

Since 2002 when Pyeongtaek was selected as the new relocation site by the LPP, the residents began their struggle to protect their land from US forces. Additionally, after the FOTA meeting which concluded with the decision to relocate Yongsan and the Second Infantry Division to Pyeongtaek, the protest expanded to an all out struggle to save the community. Even as they struggle hard against a great power, their lives have been devastated. Several residents have died during four months of struggle in Daechuri. Many other residents have resorted to alcohol, drowning in their grief.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the Special Commission of USFK Affairs are proceeding shamelessly against resident objections. Recently, unidentified rumors and fabrications were disseminated. This resulted in backbiting amongst civic activists and staff residents of the Resident Commission against US Base Enlargement in Pyeongtaek.

The MND sometimes tempted residents by giving more incentives if they agreed to give up their land, and also coerced residents to comply with USFK plans. It is a great irony that the individual heading the land purchase management in the MND is a native of Pyeongtaek. Likewise, the local police detective is a long time resident of Pyeongtaek. This just shows how money and power have devastated one village. We are certain that the reason why the Ministry and the Commission are inciting residents is because they are intent on destroying the community. They want to break down the unity of residents, wear them out, and force them to give up their fight.


copylefted by Korea Coalition against U.S. base expantion in Pyeongtaek