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[Opinion] The Seoul Plaza

Posted May. 11, 2004 22:29,   


“I see the good intention in turning the space in front of the city hall into a place for the citizens, but not like this-not a grass yard.” (Internet ID “in front of City Hall”) “Everyone knows that once the grass is planted, people cannot freely use the space. Could it be possible that the government intentionally did the project in order to regulate mass rallies?” (On GOWOONET, “The current situation can only be seen as the result of pedantic and irresponsible policy-making of the government.” -Mr. Cho) These are just some of the opinions posted up on the Seoul City Internet homepage web board. The “Seoul Plaza,” open to public only 12 days ago, is already causing controversy and debate among the Seoul citizens.

The plan to transform city hall into a grass plaza had already been affirmed in 2002. That year, Seoul mayor, Lee Myung-bak, presented this idea as one of his election campaign policies. Public surveys, which were conducted three times, showed that a majority of 80 percent answered affirmative to the project. Last January, the Seoul City held a contest for the design of the new city plaza. The winning idea was the “Plaza of Light,” which presented 2,003 LCD monitors in the bottom of the Plaza in order to generate the “festival of light” at night. However, this idea was put off for technical reasons, and instead, Seoul created the current “grass plaza” after three months of construction.

More than a million people have visited the Plaza since its opening. This shows the public’s growing expectations for an open place in the hectic city. However, serious side effects soon followed because of its popularity – worsened traffic and serious grass destruction. Finally, Seoul announced yesterday that on each Monday, the Plaza would be closed to public in order to protect the grass. But would one day’s rest per week really save the grass?

The current “Seoul Plaza” is a project solely designed by the Seoul City construction office. The idea of creating the “grass plaza” is also the innovation of city officials. When a decision of this importance is made, the government should have at least tried once to collect the opinions of the public. This project could have received great feedback from the citizens, but it failed due to a lack of communication with the public. Hopefully, the same mistake would not occur with the Chunggyechun restoration project. No longer is it the era of “fast-done policy.”

Editorial writer Song Moon-hong songmh@donga.com