Seoul Government Wants USFK to Pay for Soil Contamination Before Yongsan Garrison Relocation

Here is the latest update on the Yongsan Garrison oil contamination issue:

Land being used by the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan will be returned to Korea by the end of the year and turned into a public park. Many cases of oil contamination on the base have been exposed since the early 2000s./Yonhap

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is organizing a forum on oil contamination in the soil of U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Yongsan in central Seoul, Thursday, in an effort to pressure the U.S. to clean the site before its relocation is completed.

The city said the forum has enormous backing from citizens.

“We’re organizing this knowing there’s support coming from the public,” a city official said.

In May, the city conducted a survey of 3,040 Seoul residents, and 65 percent responded that the U.S. military should be held responsible for cleaning up any oil contamination and must do it before the land is returned ― the United States Forces Korea(USFK) headquarters and Eighth Army headquarters are currently relocating to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

The city’s move comes after a court ordered the Ministry of Environment to reveal the results of two inspections of the U.S. military base ― it conducted three inspections but only released the results of the first one to the public.

The forum is also intended to pressure the central government ― the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ― to put pressure on the USFK to share data on past contamination records and to clean the site. “To solve this problem, action from the central government is critical,” the official said.

One motivation for the city is money. So far, the local government has paid 7 billion won for cleanup operations outside the base’s perimeter. After the U.S. military moves out, the city will turn the area into a public park. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation estimates the onsite cleanup would cost 103 billion won. Environmental groups’ estimates are more than 1 trillion won.

Green Korea, an NGO advocating for a cleanup paid for by the U.S., welcomed Seoul’s move.

“It’s time for Seoul to act when the central government isn’t doing anything,” said Yoon Sangg-hoon, an activist from Green Korea.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but Green Korea has been pushing this issue since former President Park’s ouster.  Green Korea has long been an anti-US organization using the environment as justification for their activities.  In regards to the Yongsan oil leaks it has never been proven that the oil is coming from Yongsan Garrison.  Additionally of the 90+ leaks reported only 7 were major.  It seems Green Korea is inflating the leak number just like in the past the USFK crime rate in Korea was inflated by activist groups by including parking tickets.

Using environmental groups to attack USFK is something that has long been used by the Korean left. The most outrageous example has to be the ridiculous 2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Incident.  These environmental groups have primarily focused on stopping the relocation of US bases from the 2nd Infantry Division area and Seoul.  Of interest is that the 2006 Il Shim Hue spy scandal uncovered that North Korean operatives were infiltrating the ROK environmental movement to inspire more anti-US sentiment.

Ceremony Honors the Moving of the General Walker Statue from Yongsan Garrison to Camp Humphreys

Another sign that Yongsan Garrison is getting closer to being shutdown:

Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, the commanding general of the 8th U.S. Army, speaks next to a statue of Gen. Walton H. Walker, a Korean War hero, at Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul, Tuesday. The U.S. Army began the relocation of its base from Yongsan to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, with the transfer of the statue. / Yonhap

The U.S. Army at Yongsan Garrison, central Seoul, began base relocation in earnest to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province Tuesday, to what will be its largest overseas base.

The large-scale relocation project began with a historic ceremony to mark the relocation of the Gen. Walton H. Walker monument, hosted by the Eighth U.S. Army in front of its headquarters.

Gen. Walker was the commander of the Eighth Army when it was deployed to the Korean Peninsula with the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War on June 25, 1950.

“The Gen. Walker statue will be moved from Yongsan to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek,” the Eighth Army said in a release, noting that this event will mark the beginning of the Eighth Army’s relocation.  [Korea Times]

You can read much more at the link.

Picture of the Day: The Old Imperial Japanese Army Hospital on Yongsan Garrison

I saw this interesting Yongsan Garrison history lesson posted on the USFK Facebook site:

Regimental Bachelor Officers’ Quarters; later Imperial Japanese Army Hospital; now JUSMAG-K Headquarters.

Garrison Front Gate on Itaewon-ro (now the finance office).
The Japanese began their construction of the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, which served as their occupation headquarters until the end of World War II in September 1945. These were early milestones in the establishment of the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan by the Japanese:

-1905: IJA appropriates 10,000,000 pyong (c. 8,169 acres) for military use in Korea

-May 1906: IJA establishes architecture division to plan construction of new garrison

-1906: IJA designates 1,179,800 pyong (c. 964 acres) between Namdaemun (South Gate) and Han River for permanent garrison construction

-1906-1913: Garrison construction (Choson Military Compound/Camp Ryuzan) took place from 1906 to 1913, at cost of 4,462,530 won

-Oct 1908: Headquarters for Korean occupation transferred to Yongsan

-Aug 1909: Infantry barracks constructed (78th and 79th Infantry Regiments)

-1915: Garrison designed to hold division headquarters and two regiments (IJA 9th Division, 1914-1916; 13th Division, 1916-1920; 20th Division, 1919-1931).

Memories of the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1905-1945 linger in the nation’s collective psyche. The current U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan, built on the foundations of the Imperial Japanese Army garrison constructed between 1906 and 1913 and occupying many of the remaining 174 original buildings, is a tangible reminder of this period of Korean history.

(Image courtesy of the UNC/CFC/USFK Command History Office)  [USFK Facebook]

Government Report Continues to Target Yongsan Garrison As Source Ground Water Pollution

What would be an interesting piece of information is what is the pollution to the ground water in other areas of Seoul around Yongsan Garrison?  I find it hard to believe that Yongsan is the only place in Seoul with polluted ground water:

Yongsan Garrison

A contaminant detected in groundwater beneath a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in Seoul was above the permissible level, a government report showed Tuesday.

The U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul, has long been suspected as the source of oil that has contaminated the nearby water and land.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been conducting a purification project since 2001, but petroleum-based contaminants above the standard level have continued to be detected in water near the base.

According to a joint probe conducted by the environment ministry and the USFK in May 2015, 2.440 milligrams per liter of benzene was found at an observation well at the base, which is 162 times higher than the allowable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter.

Among 14 monitoring wells of 15 to 20 centimeters in diameter, four had benzene levels some 20 to 162 times higher than the standard, the report showed. A total of seven wells showed above standard levels of benzenes.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link, but this pollution issue has long been one that South Korean leftists have used to stoke anti-US sentiment and the Korean government uses to get additional money out of USFK for clean up expenses which according to the SOFA they don’t have to pay.

We will see how this all plays out just like when the camps in Area 1 closed out back in 2004.

Green Korea United Restarts Attacks on USFK Base Relocation

The activist group Green Korea United has launched another attack on USFK:

At least 90 incidents of oil leaks have taken place inside U.S. military installations in Yongsan, civic groups said Monday, suspecting U.S. Forces Korea of concealing massive contaminations of bases located in central Seoul.

The Green Korea United, an environmental group, Minbyun, also known as Lawyers for a Democratic Society, and a group of Yongsan residents held a joint press conference on Monday and made public their analysis into reports of oil leaks inside the Yongsan military bases from 1990 to 2015. They obtained the reports in November last year by demanding disclosure by the U.S. Defense Department in July last year using the Freedom of Information Act.

They said a total of 84 oil leaks at the main post and transportation division of Yongsan Garrison and nearby Camp Kim and Camp Coiner were documented in the Pentagon records. The number is far larger than the 13 oil leaks so far made public by the National Assembly and media. The Korean official record says there were five oil leaks between 1990 and 2015.

The civic groups also said the Pentagon data was missing six oil leaks that were made public in Korea. Adding them up, at least 90 oil leaks took place, they said.  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

So Green Korea has had this information since November and decided now to publish it?  Were they waiting until after President Park was impeached to push this issue?  Additionally how many of these leaks are just small scales leaks such as someone doing maintenance on a vehicle and having oil accidentally spill out?  According to the article only 7 of the 90 leaks were major.  It seems Green Korea is inflating the leak number just like in the past the USFK crime rate in Korea was inflated by activist groups by including parking tickets.

Using environmental groups to attack USFK is something that has long been used by the Korean left. The most outrageous example has to be the ridiculous 2000 Yongsan Water Dumping Incident.  These environmental groups have primarily focused on stopping the relocation of US bases from the 2nd Infantry Division area and Seoul.  Of interest is that the 2006 Il Shim Hue spy scandal uncovered that North Korean operatives were infiltrating the ROK environmental movement to inspire more anti-US sentiment.  After the spy scandal was uncovered the environmental groups kept a lower profile with their anti-US activities especially with the election of President Lee. I guess we will see in the coming months if the anti-US activist groups will feel more emboldened to attack USFK over issues like this.

Pollutants Continued to Be Found at Subway Station Near Yongsan Garrison

This issue of pollutants found at a Seoul subway station has been going on for years and it is amazing that no one has yet to figure out where it is coming from:

The Seoul city government said Monday that contaminants detected in underground water tables near a U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) garrison in the capital city were 500 times higher than normal standards.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said an average of 0.532 milligrams per liter of benzene was found around Noksapyeong Station, located near the U.S. Army base in Yongsan, central Seoul in 2016. The base has long been suspected as the source of oil leaks that have polluted both water and land.

The figure went as high as 8.811 milligrams per liter, which is some 587 times higher than the allowable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter, it said.

The total amount of petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) found near Camp Kim, within Yongsan Garrison, was 20.4 milligrams per liter on average and reached up to 768.7, which is some 512 times higher than the standard of 1.5 milligrams per liter, according to the city government.

Municipal authorities have been conducting a water table purification project since 2003, but petroleum-based contaminants have still been detected in water near the U.S. base, it said.

“Considering that the base will be returned (to South Korea) at the end of 2017, we need to establish plans on how we will clean up the pollutants,” the city government said in a press release. “But at the moment, we are not even fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the pollution.” [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

LA Times Features Story of USFK Soldier Charged With Manslaughter of Best Friend

Here is an interesting read from the LA Times about a soldier stationed at Yongsan Garrison that was being charged with the manslaughter of his best friend:

Raymond Royal, Chrissy Royal, Kathleen Stanfield and Karen Anderson sit in the Royals' Seoul apartment after Raymond Royal's two-day preliminary hearing.

Raymond Royal, Chrissy Royal, Kathleen Stanfield and Karen Anderson sit in the Royals’ Seoul apartment after Raymond Royal’s two-day preliminary hearing.

The men were U.S. Army mechanics, and they had arranged to be deployed at the same time in South Korea. Pfc. Royal, 22, was based at the Yongsan Garrison, a major U.S. military base near Itaewon. Pfc. Anderson, 20, was stationed at Humphreys, a rural garrison 55 miles south, and he was visiting for the weekend.

They drank; they played pool; they wrestled like muscle-bound, army-trained puppies, grappling into chokeholds until one or the other cried uncle. They got matching tattoos — “friends forever” swirling down their forearms in blue Korean script.

Chrissy — an energetic young woman from Royal’s North Carolina hometown — went home early, and just after midnight, Royal and Anderson decided to go home too. A taxi dropped them off near Royal’s apartment. Royal and Anderson began roughhousing. Royal pushed Anderson with two hands — a shove to the chest — and Anderson fell backwards.

Thus began the first in a tragic series of unpredictable events that would leave one friend dead, the other on trial, and the military justice system forced to grapple with complex questions about responsibility and punishment in a case whose primary villain seemed to be fate.

It happened in a matter of seconds. Just as Anderson tumbled into the street, a car veered around a corner and blazed through a red blinking light, plowing suddenly over Anderson with both axles — bump, bump. The car stopped. The police arrived. And 12 days later, Anderson died in the hospital, hooked up to a mechanical ventilator.

The Army charged Royal with manslaughter.

The hearing that would determine whether Royal would have to face a full court-martial began on a crisp day in October.  [LA Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but it seems to me that the person most culpable for the accident is the driver that ran the red light in the first place.

Picture of the Day: Farewell to 8th Army Deputy Commander

Farewell handshake

United States Forces Korea (USFK) commander Gen. Vincent Brooks (L) shakes hands with Maj. Gen. David Puster, the outgoing deputy commander of USFK’s Eighth Army, in a change of command ceremony held at the USFK headquarters in Yongsan, central Seoul, on July 7, 2016. Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith replaces Maj. Gen. Puster. (Yonhap)

Seoul American High School Proposal To Mandate School Uniforms Leads to Heated Debate

I like school uniforms considering some of the people I see now a days dressed like slobs going to school.  School should be a professional learning environment which school uniforms help create.  Really the only issue I see is the cost.  Whatever uniform is selected should not cost parents more than it does to buy regular school clothes:

Seoul American High School is considering a new dress code that would require students to wear uniforms.

The draft proposal prompted heated debate, with supporters saying more needs to be done to rein in students who dress inappropriately and critics calling it too strict. Many on both sides complained the uniforms would be expensive and get little use since most students will likely be moving soon as part of the relocation of most U.S. forces in Korea.

Students would have to wear collared polo or button-down dress shirts in a choice of three colors — blue, white or black — with chino-style pants, according to a draft copy obtained by Stars and Stripes.

The policy would ban shorts, skirts and jeans, as well as flip flops, shoes with wheels and headgear. The principal reserved the right to make exceptions based on a student’s religious beliefs or documented medical conditions.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.