Friday, April 12, 2013

'The logic of this story is the logic of a Dream Hub... or a nightmare'

Back in 2008, I posted about the Yongsan Dreamhub. According to the Joongang Ilbo,
The project, proposed in 2006, was deemed to be Korea’s largest property development project, turning the area into a large international complex of offices, malls, hotels and apartments.
In another post in 2010 , I looked at some of the updated designs for the project:

 In December of 2011, a new design for twin towers was unveiled:

Unfortunately for the designers, Americans were immediately reminded of the 9-11 attacks, and though officials said "we have no plans to change the design," a day later they were backing down.

In May of 2012, new designs were unveiled:
Along with a 620-m landmark tower, 13 more high rises over 200 m will be constructed at an international business district in Seoul's Yongsan. A shopping mall of 1.04 million sq. m, which is six times the size of the COEX mall in Samseong-dong, also in the capital, will be built below street level. 

Doing a Google image search turns up many, many more designs.

By this point, however, problems were already being run into. The development was to be connected to the Han River Renaissance Plan, a plan which fairly quickly sputtered out, and was also supposed to have an international ferry terminal for ferries which would pass through Incheon-Seoul canal. Though this canal is finished and can accommodate reasonably large ships, and they're still building cargo facilities near Gimpo Airport (a post for another day), it doesn't seem economically feasible (especially with two trillion won spent on it) and Seoul mayor Park Won-soon questioned finishing it during his campaign. I've ridden my bike along it a few times, and regularly see it from the top of Gaehwasan, my neighbourhood mountain, but I've only ever once seen a boat on it (and a local tourist 'come see the canal' one at that).

At any rate, the Dream Hub is no more:
Korail, the state-run railway operator and largest shareholder of the project, decided to scrap the nation’s largest-ever property development initiative on Monday after its normalization plan failed to get support from private investors. 

The decision of Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) to liquidate the 31 trillion won ($27 billion) Yongsan International Business District development plan is a huge blow to local construction companies which stand to lose 200 billion won worth of investments in the project.
Here's a photo of the site:

While construction companies aren't happy, they aren't the only ones:
The area in Yongsan containing train warehouses will be returned to Korail. The rest of the land will go back in the hands of residents of Seobuichon-dong, central Seoul.

The residents held a press conference yesterday, saying that they will demand at least 220 billion won in compensation to make up for their losses for the past seven years.
Some residents are luckier, however (or so I assume) since they're still living in their homes. Essentially, as seen in the photo below, the entire neighbourhood between the empty site and the Han River was slated for demolition:

Note that this includes two sets of apartments running along the river: the Daerim Apts, built in 1994, and the Buk Hangang Apts, built in 2001. I can't imagine that the owners of the latter apartments were thrilled when told in 2006 that their five year-old apartments were going to be demolished. A walk through the area some time ago revealed the residents' feelings on the subject:

"Oh Se-hoon's autocratic development is an even bigger Yongsan tragedy
Help us! The city of Seoul and Samsung want to take away our houses!"

"Killing middle class people and making an international business
 district, what kind of movie do you want?"

"We want to live here."

I can't read all the messages above, but there's stuff along the line of forcefully stopping the reconstruction and defending their houses until the end. Note the placement of the message on the side of the Buk Hangang Apts above, next to the Gangbyeong Expressway, as well as the size of it:

Once again, another plan to rebuild Yongsan-gu bites the dust. As can be seen in this map from 2008, most of the district was planned to be razed and rebuilt, but the Hannam New Town and Dream Hub have failed, and who knows when USFK will ever move out of Yongsan.

I should also note what commenter Sperwer said three years ago of the Dream Hub project:
Anyway, as I've said before, this is never going to happen, at least in anything like the comprehensive, integrated form projected in the drawings.
Right you were, sir!


Steven Bammel said...

I'm sure you must know that all those banners on the sides of the apartments explaining about how people don't want to lose their homes, blah blah means nothing at all in terms of people wanting to keep living there. That's a standard approach in Korea to negotiate higher prices for their property. Once their bank accounts are full, they take down the banners.

matt said...

That may be true a lot of the time (and for those smaller apartments, very likely), but is that true across the board in this case?

Was the compensation they were to receive going to allow them to afford new apartments within the new development? I highly doubt it. It seems a similar to the New Towns, which subverted the laws requiring 재개발 projects to include a certain amount of low income housing to allow some of the people they were displacing to remain in the area (New Towns were 뉴타운s and not 재개발, so those rules didn't apply - a nice play on words and a handout by then mayor Lee Myung-bak).

In the case of the Buk Hangang Apts, which have the largest visual protest painted on them, they were fairly new buildings and every apartment has a balcony overlooking the Han River (above the third floor or so). Would their compensation have allowed them to afford another riverside apartment? I'll say I honestly have no idea, but I have my doubts. It wouldn't surprise me in that case if the sentiments reflected in the propagandizing on the side of their building were genuine.

Steven Bammel said...

No doubt the owners of those apartments expect more compensation than normal due to their location and view. But I would be very surprised if the redevelopment deal wouldn't at least include for them a residence inside the new complex; that's pretty standard, as far as I know. Anyway you look at it, barring a huge real estate bust in the future (a distinct possibility), it'll be a sweet deal for them.