$6.2 million minimall opens for soldiers relocating to Camp Humphreys
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — A new $6.2 million minimall for servicemembers relocating to an expanded Camp Humphreys opened Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service facility includes fast-food restaurants, a barber shop, dry cleaning and a retail store – all across the street from a new troop barracks at the U.S. Army garrison 55 miles south of Seoul.
That means soldiers won’t have to depend on a bus ride to get to the central food court and commissary that previously had to serve the whole post.
The opening marked a small but welcome measure of progress in the much-delayed expansion of the rural garrison, which is expected to see its population of troops, dependents and civilian employees swell to more than 40,000 in coming years.
Soldiers attending the ceremony welcomed the minimall, saying it will save them time and help alleviate long lines and crowding that had plagued other Exchange facilities. The complex also is near a chapel, theater and gym.
“I’m here with my family so a place like this makes a lot of difference,” said Spc. Thomas Philip, 46, of the Fort Hood, Texas-based 4th Aerial Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment.
The 124-seat dining room has a Taco Bell, a Subway and a Starbucks. There’s also a dry cleaner, an eight-chair barber shop and a grocery store that also sells other items. The Starbucks wasn’t open yet, so soldiers will have to get to the central food court for that.
Construction on the nearly 24,000-square-foot minimall began on April 13, 2013, with the South Korean government paying $4.4 million and the Exchange paying $1.8 million. The South Korean government is funding most of the $10.7 billion overall expansion project.
“The complex is the first exchange support facility that’s opening in support of units transitioning to Humphreys,” said Maj. Gen. James Walton, U.S. Forces Korea’s director of transformation and restationing.
Karin Duncan, the AAFES senior vice president for the overseas region, said four more facilities will open late next year, including a 300,000-square-foot post exchange.
The bulk of USFK was supposed to relocate from Seoul to Humphreys in 2008, then 2012, 2016 and 2017. Military officials are now reluctant to talk about specific dates but are touting clear progress as facilities open and major units begin to move from areas closer to the border with North Korea.
The U.S. has about 28,500 servicemembers in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after the 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.