Tue, Oct 03, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Opinions differ on the future of military villages

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Officials, village leaders and other parties met yesterday to discuss the future of former military residential compounds as cultural sites.

Built in the aftermath of World War II to house Mainlander soldiers and their families, all but six of these military villages are now empty.

Although participants agreed that the culture of the villages was a valuable part of the nation's heritage and should be preserved, opinions differed on the extent and direction of that preservation.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) described the situation as "a race against time" to protect artifacts kept by the old soldiers from being lost or snapped up by flea market dealers.

There is also a problem of what to do with the buildings once their occupants have moved out. Many shared the concern that unless adequate precautions are taken, empty military villages will fall into disrepair or become havens for squatters.

"As it stands, we cannot do anything with the villages except put a fence around them," said Hsieh Hsiao-chun (謝小韞), head of Taoyuan County's Cultural Affairs Bureau.

"We do not even have the jurisdiction to even fix a leaky roof until the Council of Cultural Affair makes its final decision on which villages are to be preserved," Hsieh said

Hsieh supports better upkeep of two military residential compounds deemed of historical significance to the county.

Although the village leaders and residents hope for preservation of the structures, Chang Chan-kuei (張占魁) of the Veterans' Affairs Commission said that it was better to preserve a few representative villages.

"If we keep too many villages, they will lose uniqueness as tourist destinations. We need to focus our resources," he said.

He also emphasized the need to keep villages interesting and relevant.

"We must integrate the villages into the local tourism system. Just keeping the buildings in isolation is not enough. People need to have a sense of life in those places," Chang said.

"For instance, each village was famous for one food item or another. These are the kind of interesting characteristics we need to emphasize," he said.

Some argued for more continuity with the past for the six compounds that are still occupied.

"Instead of spending millions upon millions turning them into museums, why not keep the remaining compounds as living history?" asked Hung Guei-chih (洪貴池), head of Kaohsiung's Lechun New Village (樂群新村).

Hung suggested village descendants could live in the compounds while opening certain parts to tourists.

"Then, instead of a museum that only mosquitoes visit, we will have something that's meaningful and interesting," Hung said.

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