The Exchange continues to shift more resources to South Korea’s Camp Humphreys now that most stores at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan have closed.
The transition of service members and their families from Yongsan, where the Exchange operated stores since the Korean War, has been part of a consolidation of thousands of U.S. forces at Camp Humphreys farther south from the North Korean border.
During this transition from Yongsan to Camp Humphreys 40 miles south of Seoul, Camp Humphreys is now home to the Army’s most active airfield in the Pacific and the center of the largest construction and transformation project in the Department of Defense’s history.
Over the past several years, Camp Humphreys has grown from about 10,000 troops and families and will see about 44,000 troops, families and civilians in the next few years.
“I am so proud of our team members at Yongsan who understood and executed the Exchange’s core value ‘family serving family,’” said Col. Scott Maskery, the Exchange’s Pacific Region commander. “Starting in 2017, the number of customers started dropping dramatically at Yongsan as more operations and troops moved from Yongsan to Humphreys, but our Yongsan team made sure that they served the remaining customers until the very last day.”
In total, seven retail stores, a Military Clothing store, 11 restaurants and at least 45 concessionaires have closed at Yongsan.
However, Maskery noted, the Exchange’s presence will remain on Yongsan for the foreseeable future as a vital community member of the community.
The Exchange continues to operate the Express, Pizza Hut, Subway and concessions inside the Dragon Hill Lodge as well as the Yongsan gas station to provide goods and services to the remaining population, which includes U.S. Embassy personnel and others who live on the installation.
South Post Charley’s and American Eatery are still operating at Yongsan. The Exchange also is adding By Online Pick Up in Store and Western Union to the Express for more convenience.
“It’s a new year and the community continues to transform,” a post on the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan’s Facebook page said. “Thank you AAFES for daring to go where we go!”
In locations much closer to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, Exchanges at Camp Red Cloud, Camp Jackson, Camp Stanley and Camp Castle have closed during the past four years.
At Camp Humphreys, customers from Yongsan are being greeted by:
- The Exchange’s third-largest shopping center in the world, which opened in 2017 to support the installation’s growth.
- The Zoeckler Express Mini Mall, a nearly 12,000-square-foot Express equipped with eight fuel pumps, Pizza Hut and Subway restaurants, a barber shop, Military Auto Sales and local food concessions.
- A new mini mall, which opened in September, near family housing and will bring the convenience of the Exchange even closer to Camp Humphreys’ families.
- A renovated mini-mall, bringing to four the number of mini-malls serving the community.
- A durable medical equipment store.
- The Pacific Region’s first dental clinic, which will open later this year.
As part of the transition and modernization of U.S. Army and Exchange facilities, the Exchange’s bakery and distribution centers will open this summer and fall, respectively, after moving from Camp Market.
Camp Market is about 45 minutes away from Yongsan across the Han River in Seoul.
“As the Army shifted its priorities from Yongsan and other locations to Camp Humphreys, the Exchange is committed to supporting the growing installation with more stores, restaurants and services,” said Camp Humphreys Exchange General Manager Ann Yi.
At Yongsan, a recent retirement featured associates who had worked at Yongsan for 30-40 years. Other associates retired or were offered jobs at Camp Humphreys.
“They expressed all kinds of heart-felt emotions,” said Mr. Han, Ki-sol, who served as Yongsan’s services business manager and is now a Korea Northern Exchange general manager. “They were sad, but very proud of being the Yongsan Exchange team. ‘The Exchange gave me a lot of things that I cannot begin to count,’ one associate said.
“The memories of the Yongsan Exchange will be faded into history someday, but the Yongsan Exchange will be remain in the heart of associates who dedicated themselves to the Exchange and customers.”