"U.S. Forces Korea expects to return 59 camps totaling 33,000 acres of land and valued at more than $1 billion to South Korea’s government in the next two to four years", the USFK command announced early Friday evening. So far, more than two dozen bases have been closed as part of a plan to consolidate most of its forces. However, the South Korean government has only accepted 15 of those bases, claiming unacceptable pollution levels.
Accrding to this article, Nong Island at Maehyang-ri in Hwaseong City, Gyeonggi Province, has been left "a grave of rusty shells." Fisherman upon returning to the island after the USFK claimed they had done their part, said that "'whenever water flows in, it is red from the heavy metals of the rusty shells stuck in the tidal flats. The heavy metals in the mud flat have poisoned the shellfish' and anything else alive."
The stance of the USFK is that not only do the islands not have to be returned to an environemntal status they were in when they first took over the base lands, but all of these delays turning them over are only costing the South Korean government valuable economic opportunities, while costing U.S. taxpayers "more than $400,000 a month to guard closed bases."
The U.S. government simply doesn't want to pay the cost of protecting the bases while taking the time to properly clean them up, and even say the South Koreans should be thankful for getting that land back for free, without having to pay the utility costs of the capital improvements that have been made to them in billions over the years.
But what good is toxic land ruined by military debris?
According to the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) "a contract between the sender nation and the receiver nation", the environmental policy requires the U.S. to remedy “Known, Imminent, and Substantial Endangerments” (KISE) to human health and safety. And while the U.S. has apparently gone on to remove fuel tanks underground and other heavy metal contaminats, many feel the SOFA agreement is not enough to force the U.S. to take proper responsibility for the land their foreign bases have spoiled through out SK.