Korea's Post-American Landscapes: Modes of 'Recovery' in Former US Military Base Sites

Bridget Martin, Ph.D. candidate
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 -
7:30pm to 9:00pm
Second floor Residents’ Lounge, Somerset Palace
W10,000 for non-member; W5,000 won student non-member; free for members

Korea’s Post-American Landscapes: Modes of “Recovery” in  Former US Military Base Sites


Following a pair of agreements between the US and South Korea signed in 2002 and 2004, the US began undertaking a spatial reorganization of its military installations in South Korea. In an ongoing process, the US is closing 36 installations while expanding and relocating command headquarters to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek. When the military base and training area closures were first announced, many city officials in closure areas were tantalized by the possibility of new land opening up for large-scale developments. Peace activists and anti-American activists also celebrated the demilitarization and de-Americanization of these spaces (although they criticized US expansion in Pyeongtaek). However, given that the Ministry of National Defense owns much of the returned US installation lands, most local governments have found that they face a significant financial burden in re-purchasing and developing these lands. Debates have also surfaced regarding how the infrastructural and social histories of these sites should be preserved, erased, or harnessed in the future.

Within this context, this presentation critically examines ethnic, economic, and ecological modes of “recovery” of former American posts in Paju, Dongducheon, and Seoul, focusing on how various Korean actors attempt to overwrite, or superscribe, new meanings onto old American spaces: for example, the Omma Poom adoptee park in Paju; plans for new factories and tourism zones in Dongducheon; and plans for a national ecological park at Yongsan Garrison site in Seoul. The presentation also situates these conversion projects in relation to US force consolidation in Pyeongtaek, where the local and central governments cast expanded US presence as an “international city”-making project.

Bridget Martin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at UC-Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies. She has an MA in Politics from The New School for Social Research and a BA in Geology from Vassar College. Her PhD research in South Korea asks how local governments and citizens incorporate, accommodate, and resist US military infrastructures, and how urban processes and urban politics mediate questions of security and military alliance. Her work has most recently been supported by the UC-Berkeley Center for Korean Studies, The Korean-American Educational Commission (Fulbright), and the Korea Foundation.


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