US returns 12 out-of-use military bases on Korean Peninsula to Seoul

Moscow: The United States on Friday (December 11) returned 12 closed military bases to the South Korean government, including some in the Yongsan Garrison complex in central Seoul, amid fear growing that an additional delay would further hamper regional development efforts, the Yonhap news agency reported on Friday (December 11), citing South Korean officials.

According to the news agency, the decision was agreed upon during a virtual joint committee session of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Seoul and Washington despite the sides failed to reach a compromise on who and how should shoulder environmental cleanup costs. Under the agreement, among other returned facilities, Washington, for the first time, handed over military sites at the Yongsan Garrison complex that used to serve as US military headquarters to Seoul.

There were two plots inside the complex, the Camp Kim military facility, and four other sites used by the US Forces Korea (USFK) in the South Korean capital. In total, the combined area of the sites returned to South Korea amounts to 1.45 million square meters (15.6 million square feet). The news agency also reported that the two countries agreed on the return on the condition that they would further hold consultations on procedures for base decontaminations, ways to boost the environmental management of installations currently under the USFK control, and the revision of SOFA-related documents.

The 28,500-strong USFK contingent has been present in South Korea since 1991. Scattered across the country, the military has been occupying some of the most valuable real estates in prime locations, including in Seoul. After the handover, 12 military sited remain under the control of the USFK.

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