Popular gift shop closing its doors on Yongsan
SEOUL — The Chosun Gift Shop, a popular fixture at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan that has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity and scholarships, will close this spring as U.S. Forces Korea prepares to relocate to Camp Humphreys.
The main fundraising arm of the Armed Forces’ Spouses’ Club of Korea is expected to cease sales in March and officially end operations by May 31, according to AFSC president Kimberly Dobbs, who called the closing “inevitable.”
“As you might imagine, emotions ran high,” she wrote in a December email to AFSC members explaining the change. “It was not an easy decision to bring this to the [AFSC] boards nor the general membership. We did not take this decision lightly but instead spent countless hours, to include sleepless nights, making sure that we factored every possible idea into the plan.”
The 45-year-old store’s impending closure marks one of the first significant, visible changes at Yongsan related to the massive relocation project, which will consolidate the bulk of U.S. forces into two regional hubs in Daegu and the Pyeongtaek/Osan area. USFK says the majority of the relocation is expected to take place in 2016.
Most Army units in and north of Seoul will relocate to Humphreys, which is being expanded to accommodate the influx of troops and families. Dobbs said the Status of Forces Agreement allows the Chosun to operate at Yongsan but contains no provisions for it to open at Humphreys.
Even if it could legally operate at Humphreys, no space has been set aside on the Pyeongtaek base’s master blueprint, she said. The AFSC owns the Chosun building on Yongsan’s South Post but would have to pay rent if space could be found at Humphreys. And, vendors expected to operate at the new AAFES post exchange there would sell similar merchandise, she said.
The Chosun sells a range of Asian imports, including furniture, wood carvings, textiles, paintings and jewelry. It generated about $200,000 in the past two years for donations to U.S. and South Korean welfare projects and scholarship funds, Dobbs said.
The relocation to Humphreys was originally scheduled for 2008 but was delayed to 2012 and then to 2016. The military has repeatedly refused to release information about construction there and the timing of the move. USFK commander Gen. James Thurman confirmed the 2016 schedule at a community meeting last month at Yongsan.
Chosun manager Dawn Gibbons said other private organizations are making decisions about the future due to the upcoming move. By closing now, the AFSC will retain enough money to continue its donations with no noticeable impact for the next three to four years, she said.
“We’re going out on top,” she said.
The store launched its going-out-of-business sale on Feb. 2 and is expected to clear its inventory by late March, she said. The store is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Wednesday.