SEOUL - More than 5,000 Seoul residents gathered to celebrate the ground-breaking of the Yongsan Ward's new administrative complex April 25.

Yongsan is one of 25 wards that make up Seoul, the fifth largest city in the world. Yongsan is the municipal district outside of the Yongsan Garrison gates. The Yongsan population is nearly 250,000.

In 2002, U.S. Forces Korea agreed to return a parcel of land adjacent to U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan to the Republic of Korea. The land had been used as a parking lot for Army And Air Force Exchange Service taxis.

"We are very happy this land was made available to us," Yongsan Ward Mayor Park Jang-gyu told USAG-Yongsan Garrison Commander Col. Dave Hall during a recent Arbor Day ceremony. "The construction of the Yongsan administrative complex has been a goal of mine for a long time."

Park specifically praised the work of former 34th Support Group Commander Col. Steve T. Wilberger for his part in making the land available. The 34th SG was the predecessor of USAG-Yongsan. Wilberger has since retired.

At the event, Park told the crowd there will be inconveniences due to the construction and traffic, but the new facility will "improve the effectiveness of administrative works, provide various kinds of welfare for the general public and be the central place for cultural use."

Park said Seoul invested about $40 million in the project. It should be completed in 2010.

During the ceremony, Mayor Park was joined by Seoul Mayor Oh Sae-hoon and many other city officials. Entertainers kept the crowd energized before the spectacular finale of confetti and colored smoke, balloons and even the release of doves.

USAG-Yongsan Deputy Garrison Commander Don Moses represented the garrison at the ceremony. The 8th U.S. Army Band also performed for the gathering.

"It's great to see the energy of our neighbors," Moses said. "This was a world-class event. We are proud of our relationship with the Korean people."

Moses said he was happy to be part of the process to make the administrative complex a reality.

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