Organized Panel Session
Following a pair of agreements in 2002 and 2004, the US and South Korea began undertaking a massive spatial reorganization of US Forces Korea military bases, withdrawing from some areas and consolidating and expanding in others. This presentation examines the complex, overlapping legal geographies of regulation and deregulation in South Korea’s US military towns and cities, showing how the seemingly opposite processes of militarization and demilitarization are both entangled with the reproduction of capitalist spatial hierarchies and with particular local government urban aspirations. Since the early 2000s, the primary way through which the South Korean central government has provided collective compensation to cities and towns hosting undesirable US military installations (e.g. bases and training areas) has been through local development inducement policies. Through these policies, corporate interests and local growth coalitions benefit from a combination of deregulation and state infrastructure subsidization, while military lands and infrastructures themselves are often left abandoned and polluted, and surrounding communities ignored or displaced. These development inducement policies, which treat the complex problem of militarism as a solvable problem of development, not only reproduces development disparities. By enrolling local governments and growth coalitions in the pro-development solution, they also deflect and disables a more radical politics of peace among those people most affected by the US presence in the country. Focusing on North Gyeonggi Province and Pyeongtaek, the presentation asks how the idea of the country's “geopolitical landscape” might be reconsidered within the context of this emergent legal geography of spatially selective development inducement.