A number of measures have been taken against the soaring housing prices in Seoul. Among them, there have been a flurry of pleas from the public to make the former Yongsan Garrison site a rental housing project. However, if the site is developed as rental housing project, it will inevitably be criticized for benefiting only the occupants and a revision of the "Special Act on the Construction of Yongsan Park" will be inevitable. In terms of administrative and public sentiment, building a rental housing project without building an already established Yongsan park would be hard to understand. Therefore, the government should establish the Yongsan Garrison as a Yongsan park in accordance with the original route.
First, the government should not use the land which has already been designated for a specific use. As the U.S. military base in Yongsan has moved to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, the question of how to use the land afterwards has been long discussed. During the discussion, a rental housing project was one of the options. However, after much discussion, the government decided to turn the site into a park, and as a result, the "Special Act on the Construction of Yongsan Park" was enacted. Article 1 section 2 of the "Special Act on the Construction of Yongsan Park," which defines the basic ideology of the Yongsan site, provides the maximum preservation of the Yongsan area for the people to return to the Republic of Korea. As the law has already said, Yongsan Garrison, which is created by the relocation of U.S. military bases, should be a 'lifetime space and natural ecology space of the people'. However, if it were to be developed as rental housing, only a small number of people, not the whole nation, would benefit. This is not acceptable because the Yongsan site would not meet then the designated purpose of the site. Second, it would be difficult to build rental housing on the Yongsan site due to political logic. The Moon Jae-in government launched promises in 2017 to put a park on the Yongsan site. Therefore, it would be hard to take back that pledge to build a Yongsan park now. The Park Geun-hye government wanted to develop the Yongsan site for purposes other than a park. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, at odds with that decision, said he would return the Yongsan military base to an ecological park for citizens and the public. In addition, the "Special Law on the Construction of Yongsan Park" would be difficult to revise because the Democratic Party, the dominant party, support this mayor’s position. Thus, from a political point of view, it is unlikely that the government or the National Assembly will withdraw its existing route, which would result in considerable loss of time and economic damage. Therefore, they would not want to take such risks by allowing rental housing to be built in Yongsan. Third, building rental housing in Yongsan cannot solve the real estate problem right now. What is the main reason for having a rental house built on a Yongsan site? Of course, this is to solve the problem of soaring housing prices in Seoul. However, if one has to wait for more than 10 years for rental housing to arrive, the immediate task would be too much to solve and the effectiveness of the building could be questioned. In fact, the relocation of U.S. bases is only half completed so far, and it is not expected to be finished until 2021—and that is if the relocation is completed quickly. However, even when the relocation of the U.S. base is completed, rental housing cannot be built directly on the site. From that point on, the base will be closed and the return of land to the South Korean government will begin. In previous cases in Korea, it took another 10 years for the site to be utilized for environmental reasons, even though the relocation of the base was already completed and the site was empty. Considering that the Yongsan base has not yet been completely relocated, it can be expected that at minimum it will take more than 13 years before the land will ready to build on. Therefore, as plans for building rental housing would mean a distant future, they would not contribute to resolving the soaring housing prices in Seoul. It would be a better option to turn the site into a park to improve the quality of people's lives.
It is clear that housing prices in Seoul are now unusually high. However, it is hard to accept that the government will turn the ecological park into a housing project that would only benefit some people. Furthermore, if there is any doubt about its effectiveness, it is the right choice to create an ecological park. To lower housing prices, the government needs to take other measures to increase housing supply by rebuilding or redeveloping existing buildings, or else it needs to reduce demand by increasing local appeal. A national park should not be lost to the whole nation.
So far, CAH has discussed two positions in terms of building rental houses on the site of the U.S. military base in Yongsan. The proponents argued for the construction of rental houses, citing stabilization of housing prices in Seoul and the elimination of housing insecurity, while opponents opposed the introduction of rental housing at Yongsan Garrison site on the basis of legal revisions and effectiveness issues. Both sides should consider that while there are a clear basis and the construction of a new rental house may be a new hope for someone, one will lose the space to enjoy in the city. Therefore, it should be carefully approached about how the new Yongsan military base will be returned to South Korea and come up with satisfactory results for both sides.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >