Seoul plans to set up organization dedicated to develop Han River areas

2023.05.22 11:02:02 | 2023.05.22 11:32:06

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon speaks at a Maekyung Economist Club lecture held at Maekyung Media Center in Seoul on May 16. [Photo by MK DB]이미지 확대

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon speaks at a Maekyung Economist Club lecture held at Maekyung Media Center in Seoul on May 16. [Photo by MK DB]

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is pushing to establish a separate organization dedicated to its Han River Renaissance 2.0 Project to resolve the huge funding needs required for the project and ensure continuity, irrespective of a mayoral change in the future.

Han River Renaissance 2.0 is a project that aims to make the Han River a world-class tourist attraction comparable to the River Thames in London or the Seine in Paris by building landmarks, observatory and performance halls that symbolize the city along the river and increase accessibility to citizens.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon unveiled the plan during a Maekyung Economist Club lecture held at Maekyung Media Center in Seoul on May 16.

“We are considering creating a tentatively named “Han River Development Corp.,” stressing the need to establish a dedicated organization for the project, Oh said. “If we succeed in a private capital project, it could spark a dispute over preferential treatment for a specific company, and if we fail, we could be under criticism,” he explained.

Oh had earlier stated his intention to create a sustainable organization to develop the Han River into a space loved by citizens, irrespective of a mayoral change, when he visited Hamburg in Germany in March.

During his lecture on May 16, Oh expressed his ambition to make Seoul one of the top five cities in the world and open the era of 30 million tourists in the city. “There are no factories in Seoul, so I think we should focus on tourism, finance, high-tech industries and research and development to grow our economy,” he said.

In particular, he expressed his intention to enhance the tourism sector, citing a statistic about one job being created for every 26 tourists. “Tourism, which is enjoyable for both citizens and tourists, will create more jobs. I will turn Seoul from a gray city that is strict, solemn, and serious to a fun and attractive city,” Oh said.

The Han River Renaissance 2.0, or Great Han River Project announced by Oh in March consists of four major strategies and 55 projects focusing on enhancing accessibility to the Han River and increasing tourist attractions. A representative example is a plan to build an aerial gondola connecting the southern and northern ends of the river. The project also includes plans to create a giant Ferris wheel named Seoul Ring with a view of the Han River and turn Nodeul Island, which sits in the Han River in the heart of Seoul, into a global art island with exhibitions and music performances held 365 days a year.

Yeouido, the financial district in Seoul [Photo by MK DB]이미지 확대

Yeouido, the financial district in Seoul [Photo by MK DB]

Oh picked Yeouido, the financial district in Seoul, as one of his key project locations. He plans to build a second Sejong Center for the Performing Arts along the Han River in Yeouido, inspired by the Elbphilharmonie, a representative concert hall in Hamburg, Germany. The city government also plans to build a marina port called Seoul Port in Yeouido and operate water buses.

Oh also put forward a plan to develop Yeouido into a financial hub for Asia. He especially plans to nurture fintech and blockchain companies in the city as state-run banks and pension funds are moving out of the city. He is also considering making the district a foreigner-friendly area.

“Global financial companies are leaving Hong Kong for Singapore and the European headquarters of Google LLC, Apple Inc. and Inc. are based in Ireland. The biggest reason is tax, and the second is English,” he said. “I would like to make Yeouido a foreigner-friendly city so that English is available everywhere in hospitals, schools and cafes, giving a boost to the city‘s competitiveness.”

Furthermore, the Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to set up a global future complex on a site of a demolished ready-mixed concrete factory in eastern Seoul, to attract companies investing in high-technology industries, social networking services, media, and information to create Korea’s Silicon Valley. In a related move, the city government also plans to develop Yangjae and Suseo in southern Seoul and Hongneung in northeastern Seoul as centers for artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and bio-tech industries, respectively.

The city government also aims to increase green space in the city under its so-called Green Urban Space Recreation strategy. The government is currently creating guidelines to redevelop Sewoon district in central Seoul into parks and green areas which include combining the current 170 Sewoon District areas into 30, increasing the floor area ratio, and lifting the height limit in order to create a huge amount of land for green space for citizens.

Oh also unveiled a garden city project to move the car-only roads underground and turn the roads into green parks. To this end, he plans to encourage architects to come up with innovative designs for the project.

By Kwon Oh-gyun, Lee Hee-soo, and Yoon Yeon-hae

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