SEOUL, Oct. 6 (Yonhap) -- First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun called Wednesday for the U.S. military's cooperation on a plan to return part of its Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul, as South Korea pushes to turn the base into a national park.
Choi and Vice Defense Minister Park Jae-min visited the garrison to take stock of progress in the implementation of the plan to return nearly 500,000 square meters of land -- about one-fourth of the garrison site -- by early next year, the foreign ministry said.
Seoul and Washington announced the plan in July, amid worries any further delay in the return and decontamination of the garrison would hamper the mega project to establish the park.
"Vice Minister Choi stressed that the return of the Yongsan Garrison is a crucial matter directly linked to everyday life of our citizens and asked the U.S. Forces Korea to closely cooperate to ensure the return will proceed without a problem," the ministry said in a press release.
The envisioned return of the garrison is part of a broad relocation scheme to consolidate U.S. bases across the Korean Peninsula into a garrison in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, and another in Daegu, 302 km southeast of the capital, with an aim to enhance defense readiness and operational efficiencies in the face of North Korean military threats.
The 500,000 square meters of land in point -- about the combined size of 70 soccer fields -- is expected to mostly include parts of the garrison's southern section, called the South Post, which houses schools, sports fields and officers' quarters.
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