SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) — The Ministry of Lands on Thursday announced plans to temporarily open part of the site for a planned national park near the presidential office in central Seoul to the public starting next week.
A portion of the Yongsan site — formerly used as a garrison for United States Forces Korea (USFK) — will be available to visitors for 10 days starting June 10, which will include the south side of the recently relocated presidential office and sports fields north of the National Museum of Korea, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation.
South Korea is working to turn the Yongsan garrison site into a large national park, named Yongsan Park, as the US military is in the process of returning the base to the Seoul government following the move of its headquarters at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul.
Initially, the ministry planned to open the site in May, but postponed the decision due to lack of preparation. It has since installed more facilities there to improve public comfort, such as benches, sun shelters and cafes, officials said.
The planned opening aims to involve people in the process of transforming the Yongsan base, which has long been off limits, into an open space, according to the ministry.
The new Yoon Suk-yeol government has 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 .
Visitors must make reservations online in advance, and up to 500 people can visit the site per two-hour time slot and 2,500 per day
Citizens can also visit the front yard of the presidential office, and various events to celebrate the return of the site will be held, according to the ministry.
“We will improve communication with people and actively accept their opinion throughout the park construction project to make them feel that Yongsan Park will truly belong to them in about 120 years,” Lands Minister Won Hee- said. ryong.
The area has been demarcated since 1904, when Japan stationed its troops at Yongsan during the Russo-Japanese War. Yongsan had housed the headquarters of the United States Army after Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule from 1910-1945.