The government is considering moving a sprawling U.S. military hotel in the old U.S. Forces Korea headquarters in Seoul to the new base in Pyeongtaek south of the capital or closing it down altogether.
A government official said Tuesday, "The government has exchanged opinions with the U.S. side, but has yet to discuss it in detail."
Korea and the U.S. had originally agreed to leave the Dragon Hill Lodge where it is, even when the entire USFK base has been moved to Pyeongtaek, but at Yongsan it would get in the way of a new public park.
A Defense Ministry official said, "The relocation of Dragon Hill Lodge is not included in the existing relocation plan, so a separate agreement needs to be made about expenses and other matters."
Some news media reported that Cheong Wa Dae told the Defense Ministry to consider either moving it or closing it down. The ministry official said the matter is of "national interest" but added, "Cheong Wa Dae has not given any instructions."
Korea and the U.S. agreed in October of 2014 to leave a portion of the Combined Forces Command, Dragon Hill Lodge and a heliport at Yongsan even after the rest moves to Pyeongtaek. The logic was to leave some recreational facilities for the CFC.
But they agreed in January this year to move the CFC to the Defense Ministry's grounds in Yongsan, which left no reason for the hotel to occupy the large space it now does.
Only the heliport and some U.S. Embassy property will probably stay in Yongsan.
The 394-room Dragon Hill Lodge is an unprepossessing nine-story structure built in 1990 on 84,000 sq.m to house visiting American soldiers. Non-military personnel are also allowed to use it if they have an entry pass to the base.
Civic groups and Seoul city do not want it in Yongsan, where it would be an eyesore in the middle of the public park that will replace the USFK base.
But Kim Won-shik (76), who heads a civic group that supports the development of Yongsan, said, "The modern hotel was the envy of outsiders when using such a hotel was rare for ordinary Koreans and it could be accessed only by well-connected people. It would be nice to rehabilitate such a historic building as a commemorative site rather than destroying it."