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South Koreans spending $18.3M to turn former 2nd ID headquarters into community facility

More than 5,000 Soldiers of 2nd infantry Division/ROK-US Combined Division re-created the division insignia at Indianhead Field on camp Casey, Dec. 21, 2016. This is the third time in the division's history that the living insignia has been re-created and the first with the Combined Division tab. (Sgt. Robert Larson/Department of Defense)

A vacant former military base — once home to the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea — is being turned into a community facility with a museum, gallery and performance hall, according to South Korean officials.

The 2nd ID vacated Camp Howze, one of several “Western Corridor” bases near the Demilitarized Zone north of Seoul, in 2004.

It left behind hundreds of exotic trees planted by soldiers who had served there, and barracks rated “some of the best in Korea,” an engineer involved in the move said at the time.

The facility was named after Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Robert Howze, the first commander of the 1st Cavalry Division, which occupied the base from 1957.

In 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division was redesignated the 2nd ID. Soldiers of the 2nd ID, then at Fort Benning, Ga., swapped patches with troops of the 1st Cavalry Division and became the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), according to 2nd ID historical records.

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The 2nd ID headquarters remained at Howze until 1971, when it was moved to Camp Casey with the departure of the 7th Infantry Division from South Korea.

In September, a memorial to South Korean adoptees was opened at Howze. At least 200,000 South Korean children were adopted overseas after the Korean War. Most went to the U.S., especially biracial children who faced stigmas because they were born to unwed women who had slept with American soldiers.

This week, Paju City announced plans to renovate six buildings at the old base to create something it calls “Flat Village” by June 2021, the Hankyoreh Shinmun reported Wednesday.

The $18.3 million project, which includes parking for 550 vehicles, will turn the former base gymnasium into a performance hall and a supply shop into a museum and gallery, a Paju City official said Thursday.

Officers’ quarters will be converted to a guest house, a dining facility will become a community center and a headquarters building will transform into an artist’s residence, the official said.

People living near Howze made great sacrifices as a consequence of the Korean War, Paju Mayor Choi Jong-hwan said, according to the newspaper report.

The project will create jobs and boost locals’ incomes, he said, adding that the base would be “reborn as a place of reconciliation, healing and peace.”

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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