South Korea to Open Military Zones for Economic Development

SEOSAN - President Yoon Suk Yeol announced on Monday a significant policy shift to release military-protected lands for public use, aiming to foster regional economic growth and facilitate the construction of critical infrastructure.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the announcement made during a government-public debate on livelihood issues in Seosan, 98 kilometers southwest of Seoul, the government plans to free up approximately 339 square kilometers of military facility protection zones, including areas surrounding the Seosan airfield.

Yoon highlighted that the initiative is expected to alleviate the constraints on building schools and other essential facilities, as 8.2 percent of the nation's territory is currently designated as military protection zones. He underscored that the conditions which warranted the introduction of these zones in the 1970s have evolved due to urbanization and technological advancements affecting military and security structures.

The decision is particularly poised to benefit South Chungcheong Province, home to Seosan and a hub for key industries such as automotive and display panels. Yoon elaborated on the prospects of establishing a civilian airport in Seosan and designating a free economic zone in the province to foster collaboration between foreign tech companies and local firms. He envisaged transforming South Chungcheong into an economic nucleus along the Yellow Sea Rim, likening its potential to Silicon Valley.

Further, Yoon outlined development plans for various sectors within the province, including the transformation of Cheonan and Hongseong into hubs for future mobility industries and the creation of a defense industry cluster in Nonsan. Additionally, a business innovation park in Dangjin is expected to attract 35 mobility companies, generate economic benefits worth approximately 9.6 trillion won, and create 32,000 jobs.

The announcement is part of Yoon's broader deregulation efforts across the economy, which have previously included easing restrictions on "greenbelt" areas and farmland use. However, these moves have faced criticism from the opposition Democratic Party, accusing Yoon of implementing populist policies ahead of the upcoming general elections. Following the policy unveiling, Yoon visited a traditional market in Seosan to engage with the public and address their needs directly.

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