U.S. Military Sites and Related Incidents in South Korea

Map created by Sheen Kim.
Sites from 2018. Protests from 1950 on.


EDIT 6/29/21: As of May 2021, this map is part of a loose body of work on the cartography of militarism in Korea. To see the [indirect] sequel of this work, please click here (.docx file download) to see my final project of a Critical GIS class at Dartmouth on alternative (affective/more visual focused) ways of mapping peace and survivor experiences.

This is a webmap mapping U.S. military sites and U.S. military-related incidents in South Korea. Site data is current as of 2018 (where site is defined as territory owned by the U.S.). Protests/civilian deaths have been collected by manually scraping news articles and accounts from 1950 on.

Click on individual points for descriptions!

Site Proportional Displays shows sites scaled by their population (including troops, U.S. citizens, workers, families, where the equation is the population square rooted * 100) and size (square meterage).

Site Scales show scales that move and scale with your cursor and zoom.

Site Heat Map shows a heat map of the concentration of cites. Of note: that line from Seoul to Incheon near the border and major population centers.

In Site Point Displays, "Active Sites" shows sites that are still in operation. "Inactive Sites" are sites where the U.S. still holds territory, but the site is supposed to be turned over to the South Korean government or is defunct. "Sites of Large Controversy" highlights bases that have been the sites of major protests.

Incidents shows various protests and killings of Korean civilians.


"I hate all American presidents." - Village elder Do Keum-yeum, quoted in 2017 during the still-going protests against the installment of THAAD in Seongju.

The U.S. government and military has consistently had a deep involvement within the peninsula, exponentially increased by the Korean War. The U.S. has especially has had a heavy presence in the South/the ROK, where they backed the foundational neoliberal politicians, both politically and with military presence. Yet, there is great frustration around the presence of U.S. troops, their displacement of Koreans from villages hundreds of years old, the increase crime and fear that they bring, their legal immunity, their noise and environmental pollution, and their cost to the Korean government and taxpayers, among others.

But seemingly constant U.S. presence is difficult to visualize for a few reasons:

1. Lack of consolidated data: Full lists of bases are not obviously available. There is no existing such comprehensive visualization of bases to show just how many there are and how much space they take up. Furthermore, there is no clear consolidation of information on incidents around these bases, removes them from their context or obscures them completely by making them difficult to find.
2. Hidden information: Even when one does find information on a given base, its true effects on the Korean government and people are not immediately obvious. For example, Camp Humphreys’s official military website does not show that 93% of its $11 billion cost is being fronted by the ROK government, whereas unaffiliated publications do. The same problem is evident with such incidents. For example, the Yangju Highway Incident1 needs to be contextualized by its proximity to Camp Casey.
3. Conceptualizing space: One can hear that a base is 2843 acres, but what does that actually mean? How many houses and people does that space comprise?
4. Temporal elements: Bases are far from static in time. Throughout the years, bases are expanded, moved, dismantled. Furthermore, incidents around these bases are often forgotten and slotted into the past, even when they are still representative of the same persisting issues.

Interestingly enough, the military sites do not seem to take up much space physically (not as true if you zoom in). There is still a lot of think about here regarding psychic territory, mapping time/over time, and bringing what is invisible in data to the forefront.

Monmeier discusses how “cartographic propaganda can be an effective intellectual weapon against an unresponsive, biased, or corrupt local bureaucracy” (112). I hope to raise broader critical conversations of U.S. military presence and continued intervention abroad. In concluding this project, I am left thinking about the continued uptick in violence against Asians as well as the Atlanta shootings that occurred on Tuesday the 16th. To some extent, this violence is a large result of U.S. narratives attempting to justify histories of violence in East Asia. Yoon Geum-I’s murder is far too reminiscent of the ones that occurred two days ago. Admittedly, this is a painful subject to map, but it is meaningful work. I hope I have done the topic justice and created a clear, informative webmap to build on that allows for those interested to understand and create solidarities.

Data Collection

Site names and area were collected from the U.S. Department of Defense's official Base Structure Report from FY 2018.

Other site info was collected from varieties of sources, including official military websites such as Military Installations, public resources such as Global Security, and personal sources such as Facebook posts of soldiers.

Incidents come from news publications (domestic and international), firsthand accounts, and activists' websites.

This map was coded with Leaflet. Credit to jjimenezshaw on Github for their Control Layer Tree plugin.

I collected and typed data all manually into Excel. Coordinates were found through Google Maps. Exact coordinates were used if available; approximations based on listed nearest city and online sources were made if not. I then used the CONCAT function to convert Excel data into multiple GeoJSON files.

Sources and Acknowledgements

All sources and references available in .pdf format here.

I would like to acknowledge Professor Jonathan Chipman as well as Professor Ryan McKeon without whom I could not have dreamed up or had the skills to create this map.

Richard Zhou, my friend and a ’23 at the University of Maryland, helped me with the Boolean expressions for subset point layers. I also thank all my friends for letting me talk their ears off about this map and its contents while I was working on it.

I want to acknowledge jjimenezshaw, @haakseth, and Colton Wagner for their various source codes. I also acknowledge the variety of news sources and public databases that I utilized for maintaining this vital information.

Finally, I would like to thank the grassroots Korean organizations Nodutdol, Save Jeju Now, and Korea Peace Now! for inspiring the topic for this map, providing personal insight as well as current information, and for continuously fighting the good fight.

Extra Reading

Bove, Riley. "From Stolen Land to Riches: US Neo-Colonialism in South Korea." Hampton Institute. 2020.

Cho, Grace. Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War. 2008.

Park, Ju-Hyun. "The Alien and the Sovereign: Yellow Peril in Pandemic Times." Evergreen Review.

Shorrock, Tim. "Welcome to the Monkey House." The New Republic. 2019.

For any suggestions, please contact me at sheen.23@dartmouth.edu or DM me at my Twitter @sheen_co_kr. Last updated 6/29/2021.