SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- The mayor of Yongsan Ward said he has proposed moving a U.S. military hotel to a location outside the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan to make way for a new national park.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency last week, Mayor Sung Jang-hyun said he proposed the relocation of Dragon Hill Lodge from its current location inside the garrison to a site outside Yongsan but inside Seoul during a recent meeting with a central government official.
The U.S. military is in the process of returning the site of the Yongsan Garrison to the South Korean government after it relocated the headquarters of U.S. Forces Korea to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul.
The South Korean government plans to turn the site into a large national park named Yongsan Park.
"Keeping a U.S. military hotel in Yongsan Park that is inaccessible to ordinary citizens and tourists is not helpful to our two countries' friendship, given the public sentiment here," Sung said in the interview.
"I proposed an alternative site for the hotel in the city," he said, declining to name the exact location at this stage, except to say that it is outside Yongsan Ward.
The mayor emphasized that the proposal was not simply an idea but a suggestion based on consultations with various concerned parties.
"A park should be a park," he said. "I hope the government will review (the proposal) in a forward-looking manner in order to minimize the number of U.S. military facilities left behind in Yongsan Park."
Dragon Hill Lodge is one of several facilities Seoul and Washington agreed to keep in Yongsan Garrison following the USFK's relocation to Pyeongtaek.
Sung suggested the South Korean government build a new hotel for the U.S. military and in exchange receive ownership of the building housing Dragon Hill Lodge.
A similar exchange took place earlier when the U.S. government agreed to return a site north of Yongsan Park, which was reserved for the construction of U.S. Embassy personnel lodgings, in exchange for 150 apartment units there.