Since World War II, US military bases have become a global phenomenon and generated complex responses from their “host” societies. For these past six decades, South Korea has functioned as one of the major hubs of the global network of US military bases, yet organized local movements against US military bases did not develop until the late 1980s when the country began its transition to procedural democracy. This essay examines one of the major antibase movements in South Korea that took place in Pyeongtaek from 2003 through 2007. This local movement is chosen for two reasons. First, the city has become the primary hub of the United States Forces Korea after the restructuring of the global US military presence. Second, the democratic South Korean government’s use of coercive and violent measures in dealing with the local movement sets an alarming precedent for global base politics, pitting the vested interests of transnational political elites against the interests of local men and women in living a safe, everyday life. This essay first provides a brief history of two major military bases in the provincial city of Pyeongtaek. Then it examines how the antibase movement by local residents and political activists from outside reemerged and declined in Pyeongtaek. Finally, it analyzes lessons that can be drawn from the case study of Pyeongtaek for antibase movements and a critical understanding of the global US military presence.

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