SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) — A former U.S. Forces Korea base near President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office opened on Friday as a trial public park, drawing crowds of people trying to get a first-hand look at the site that had been off-limits to ordinary citizens for 120 years.
Yongsan Park is under construction at the site previously used as the USFK’s Yongsan garrison, with the USFK headquarters having moved to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul. The government originally planned to complete the park by 2027, but the plan was postponed.
On Friday, part of the park was opened to the public on an experimental basis.
A 27-year-old man who previously worked as a translator during his military service at the US base welcomed the government’s decision to turn the base into a park.
“It is significant that the site was returned to (Seoul) earlier than expected,” Na Eui-hyun said.
A 71-year-old visitor, identified only by his surname Chang, said the visit was to satisfy his curiosity.
“The Japanese used the site first, then American soldiers used it until now. I was so curious to see how big the place is,” Chang said.
Visitors must make reservations online in advance, and up to 500 people can visit the site per two-hour slot and 2,500 per day.
The new Yoon Suk-yeol government moved the presidential office from Cheong Wa Dae to the Ministry of Defense compound in Yongsan district in a bid to get out of a ‘symbol of imperial power’ and be closer to the people .