Camp Humphreys could become headquarters in a war with North Korea — here’s what life is like on the US’ largest overseas base

  • Despite heightened tension between the US and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear weapons program, life in America’s largest overseas military base continues as usual.
  • Camp Humphreys, an $11 billion US Army garrison located in South Korea, is expanding. There could be 42,000 American soldiers and civilians living there by 2020.
  • The camp resembles a typical small American city with a shopping mall, churches, a golf course, and even high school football.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump visited Camp Humphreys, an $11 billion US Army garrison that is now America’s largest overseas military base.

The camp is located just 40 miles south of Seoul and about 60 miles from the Demilitarized Zone bordering North Korea. Life on the camp resembles that of a small American city, even though it is situated in a far-off area of the Korean countryside once populated by rice paddies and rural farmers.

“We built an entire city from scratch,” Col. Scott Mueller, the camp’s commander, told The Washington Post.

Camp Humphreys was years in the making and faced many obstacles along the way.

South Korean police use shields and clubs to stop protesters trying to enter the U.S. army's Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Seoul, August 8, 2005.

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South Korean police use shields and clubs to stop protesters trying to enter the U.S. army’s Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek, about 80 km (50 miles) south of Seoul, August 8, 2005.
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Lee Jae Won/Reuters

After World War II, the US seized control of the area, but it wasn’t until 2003 that US officials would decide to relocate military headquarters to Camp Humphreys “to improve the force posture and operational efficiency” of troops stationed in the country.

Camp Humphreys’ continuing expansion comes as fears mount over what many perceive to be an out-of-control “war of words” between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The threat of a nuclear conflict has many on edge. But for the thousands of American soldiers and civilians living inside the US military’s newest headquarters, life goes on:


Today, Camp Humphreys, located near the city of Pyeongtaek, serves as the headquarters for all US military forces stationed in South Korea.

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In many ways, Camp Humphreys feels like a typical American town.
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USAG — Humphreys

For decades, the US government has been trying to relocate its South Korean military headquarters from the center of Seoul to an area farther south that would be out of the reach of North Korea’s artillery firing range in the case of an attack.


Protests broke out in and around Pyeongtaek in 2005 opposing American military expansion plans.


The US government eventually offered compensation to many local residents to get them to relocate to make room for construction of the camp.


The US plan moved closer to fruition this July when the 8th Army, the regiment overseeing all US troops in South Korea, moved to Camp Humphreys.

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flickr/usaghumphreys

Just last month, Camp Humphreys unveiled a new veterinary clinic, dental clinic, and food court for soldiers.

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USAG — Humphreys

Source: USA Today


There are about 25,000 living at the base now, but there could be close to 42,000 people, including soldiers, civilians, and contractors living there by 2020.

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Clint Stone/US Army/flickr/usaghumphreys

A new $6.2 million, 24,000 square-foot mini-mall also opened earlier this month. It has everything from food to toiletries, beverages to auto supplies, and a Starbucks.

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USAG — Humphreys

Sources: US Army; USAG Humphreys Youtube


There’s a sports complex, including baseball, football, and soccer fields.

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Humphreys High School football
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Anthony Langley/flickr/usaghumphreys

And a handful of churches. More are expected to be built as the expansion continues.

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USAG — Humphreys

Source: USAG – Humphreys Youtube


Kids can participate in a youth soccer league, just one of the many recreational activities available to families and children.

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Flickr/USAG- Humphreys

Humphreys High School comprises grades 9-12 and serves about 360 students who are children of US staff and service members.

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USAG — Humphreys

Sources: USAG – Humphreys Youtube, DODEA Pacific


Also included among the camp’s unique American luxuries are Arby’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King restaurants.


College sports teams often visit the camp to entertain the troops. Here, soldiers cheer during a game between two visiting US university basketball teams – Georgetown and Oregon — in 2013.


American artists and performers stop by the camp as well. Earlier this year, country singer Chase Rice performed for the troops and their families.

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USAG —Humphreys

In their free time, soldiers can head to the community activities center where they can play a variety of games.

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USAG — Humphreys

Residents also have access to a bowling alley, movie theater, fitness center, and swimming pool.

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Mary Kim/US Army/flickr/usaghumphreys

There’s more to life at Camp Humphreys. After all, its purpose is to serve the US military.

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A US battalion conducts situational training at Camp Humphreys.
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USAG – Humphreys

Camp Humphreys is home to many first-term soldiers. The goal of training at the base is to drive the point home to younger soldiers that “at any time North Korea could come across that line and combat preparedness will determine whether they live or die,” according to Lt. Col. Julius A. Rigole Jr.

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USAG — Humphreys

The military uses their surroundings for real life training, such as using the camp’s gym for a hostage drill.

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US Army/Cpl. Han Jae Ho/flickr/usaghumphreys

Throughout the year, the camp often hosts team building and cultural events between Americans and South Koreans.

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US Army/Lee Ji Min and Kim Jae Woong/flickr/usaghumphreys

The activities help strengthen the bond between the US and Korea.

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USAG — Humphreys

It’s also common for Americans to meet with Korean military and defense officials.

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The US Army meets with the representatives of Republic of Korea Air Force (RKAF).
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USAG — Humphreys

Camp residents, meanwhile, get to experience the holidays even though they are far away from home in the US. Independence Day celebrations are held every July 4.

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USAG — Humphreys

There are many special events for Christmas, too.

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During the holidays, it’s just like being back home.
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USAG — Humphreys

Kids dressed up for Halloween play games organized for the special occasion.

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Kids dressed up for Halloween play games organized for the special day.
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USAG — Humphreys

Humphreys middle and high school students perform concerts for their parents.

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USAG — Humphreys

Meanwhile, to accommodate the thousands of new residents expected to move to the camp in the coming months and years, more housing complexes are being built as part of the US government’s expansion plans.

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New housing complexes pictured August, 2017.
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USAG — Humphreys

While Camp Humphreys continues to grow, life for many of its residents has stayed the same.

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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst