A Force for Development: The Scalar Politics of Militarized Urbanism in Pyeongtaek

Bridget Martin, PhD Candidate
University of California, Berkeley

A US military installation currently undergoing expansion in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, will in the next two to three years become the largest overseas US military base in the world and will host the vast majority of US troops in Korea. Focusing on the city of Pyeongtaek, this paper analyzes how local and central governments in South Korea have enrolled the US military in state-driven urbanization projects through an emergent militarized version of the country’s dominant “international city” urban paradigm. Because of the inter-scalar politics and locally driven urban growth regimes that have evolved since the mid-1990s, the local government in Pyeongtaek has “turned crisis into opportunity,” re-casting US military presence in the city from a force for national security to a force for internationalized urban development. Since 2004, the local and central governments have used promises of urban growth to persuade a skeptical Pyeongtaek population that US base expansion in Pyeongtaek would benefit citizens. While the withdrawal of the US military from downtown Seoul and the opening up of the Yongsan Garrison space is used by Seoul City to push forward new “green” urban schemes in the capital’s center, in Pyeongtaek, which is a rural and peripheral city, all levels of government cast military expansion as a force for local economic development and internationalized urbanization

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