Cheonggyecheon refers to a spectacular reclamation project that runs through the heart of Seoul, Korea. Cheonggye Stream was covered over and an elevated expressway was built on the site in the late 1960’s. In 2003 the city began a reclamation project that would remove the expressway and reopen the stream.

It looked like this.

And now like this.

Photo by rinux

Seems pretty cool doesn’t it?

But this project is deeply mired in controversy. The vice mayor has been arrested on bribery charges. And these issues have loomed large

“They cite the lack of a proper solution to the notorious downtown traffic congestion as well as the threat the gentrification of the area poses to the livelihoods of the 220,000 people working at approximately 65,000 stores located in close proximity to the stream. They have been offered relocation sites and financial assistance but both require a long wait.

Other critics reject the city government’s use of the “eco-friendly” tag. As local aquifers had long dried up, the government was forced to draw water from the Han River and other sources to pump into the stream, ridiculing any notion of benefiting the environment, critics argue.

Opponents of the stream also point out that the city’s decision to allow the construction of high-rise buildings alongside the stream makes a hypocrisy of the city’s promotion of the stream as an “eco-friendly” development as it will only encourage a construction boom in the area.”

Taken from here.

Another negative is the cost generally rated at about $900 Million US.

And on top of it all the stream bed was found to be a rich archeological “dig”.

“If we cease excavation of the Cheonggyecheon, a 600 year-old historical site, and have it remain in its present state, we will commit an inexcusable crime to our history and descendents. Unless the construction is ceased and excavation is fully conducted, the mayor of Seoul city, Myoung-bak Lee cannot but be remembered as a destroyer of the Cheonggyecheon, and relics representing historical city, Seoul.”(Kang Chan-suck, Head of Committee of Cultural Inheritance in Cultural Dept.) More here.

How can what appears to be such a wonderful project turn out to be such a mess?

Perhaps it does boil down to greed, but thinking in terms of before and after without much consideration for all the in between possibilities ( such as finding a rich cultural site) can only lead to disaster. Corruption always excludes a lot of important factors. And there has to be “victims” as well.

In Montreal we have the empty Olympic Stadium as a constant reminder of how to NOT do large scale projects which is a shame because this really is a remarkable place. Hopefully, the mind set that created the Big Owe situation is a part of the past and we will see a vision that is based on egalitarian principles and not on the discretion of ego and greed.

5 responses to “Cheonggyecheon

  1. Great post… I just dugg it but I am not one of those “top diggers” so it may not matter. I was just reading an article earlier today about the languishing monorail project in Seattle, USA. And of course the infamous Big Dig in Boston is still generating its share of controversy.

  2. Pingback: “I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea my dear…” « Have Diploma, Will Travel·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s