After weeks of negotiations over 1-and-a-half million square meters of land in Seongju County, US Forces Korea now assumes operational control over a fifth of it -- the area that will host the anti-missile defense system, THAAD.
But there are still a number of steps left to be taken.
According to the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the two nations., South Korea will provide the U.S. forces with basic infrastructure such as water and electricity, made easier by the fact that the site had previously served as a fully functional golf course.
Once the core infrastructure is fully in place, U.S. Forces Korea will use its own assets to equip the base with strategic radars and other equipment needed for the THAAD battery.
But before the former golf course is transformed into a military base. the U.S. will have to wait for South Korea's defense ministry to complete its own environmental impact analysis, which has to be approved by the country's environment ministry.
That process can take up to a month, or even a year.
They'll need to look at the effect on nearby residents as well as the surrounding ecosystem.
To speed things up, last December the defense ministry pre-selected a private company to prepare for the environmental analysis rather than wait until the land transfer agreement was finalized.
The move was controversial -- some saying the ministry was focused only on speed, with little regard for the residents of Seongju county, who have expressed concern that that THAAD's radars could emit dangerous electromagnetic waves.
Since then, the private company has reportedly undertaken its own mock-analysis of the site, assuming that the land transfer will involve around 150-thousand square meters of land, not too far-off from the final 300-thousand.
At this rate, observers speculate that the THAAD battery will be operational for sure sometime after the presidential election on May 9th.
Kim Jung-soo, Arirang News.