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Once Abandoned, Peace Dam Could Become Tourist Attraction

Once Abandoned, Peace Dam Could Become Tourist Attraction

Posted October. 14, 2005 07:36,   


On October 30, 1986, then-Minister of Construction and Transportation Lee Kyu-ho announced that North Korea was constructing the Geumgangsan Dam. The fact that the dam would have a water storage capacity of 20 billion tons and that if the dam broke, the water level will rise to halfway up the 63 Building, sent shock waves throughout South Korea. Only 20 days later, the government responded with a plan to construct a new dam. That was the start of the Peace Dam project.

The Peace Dam: Endless Controversy-

The government collected 63.9 billion won in donations in six months and the groundbreaking ceremony took place in February 1987.

However, experts constantly argued that the threat of flooding was a scam, and construction on the dam came to a halt in 1990.

After the Kim Young-sam administration took office, the Board of Audit and Inspection announced, “The threat of Geumgangsan Dam was exaggerated.” It argued that the former administration tried to deflect attention away from the increasing demand for direct presidential elections of late 1986 with the threat of flooding from the North.

Since then, the dam was regarded as useless and little progress on it followed.

In January 2002, signs that the Geumgangsan Dam could have safety problems arose, however, even if North Korea was not planning to attack the South with flooding. Hence, the government announced that it would start the second stage construction of Peace Dam in May 2002 and resumed its construction in September of the same year.

Safe, Even if the Geumgangsan Dam Breaks-

When the first stage of the Peace Dam construction was completed, the water storage capacity of the dam was no more than 590 million tons. As the second stage is now completed, the height of the dam rose by 45 m to 125 m and the dam become the highest dam in South Korea.

Its water storage capacity is 2.63 billion tons, the third largest in Korea after the Soyanggang Dam (2.9 billion tons) and the Chungju Dam (2.75 billion tons), and 10 million tons more than the Geumgangsan Dam (2.62 billion tons), which was the cause of the construction of the dam in the first place.

For the construction of the Peace Dam, 399.5 billion won, including 63.9 billion won in people’s donations, was spent.

Cheon Byung-sung, the director of water resources for the MOCT, said, “According to computer mock tests, if the Geumgangsan Dam collapses, most of the increased water will be stored in the Peace Dam, and the rest will be stored in Paro Lake, which is in front of the Hwacheon Dam.” He added confidently, “There is no reason to worry about a possible flood triggered by a collapse of the Geumgangsan Dam.”

A Potential Tourist Destination-

The Korea Water Resource Corporation (KOWACO) reconstructed the neighboring environment around the Peace Dam, which was destroyed in the process of construction. The corporation reforested the quarry which became exposed as the construction proceeded.

The main body of the dam, which looked like a cement monster at the suspension of the first stage of construction, has been maintained and is looking good enough to be a tourist destination.

On the road over the dam is an observation platform where tourists can rest and visit a “Plaza of water and culture” with sculptures showing the past, present and future of water beside the dam.

Camping grounds and promenades will be built in the neighboring area for tourists.

“The Peace Dam will live up to its name with many places for refreshment around itself,” said Park Yong-tae, who was born in town neighboring the Peace Dam and involved in the construction process from its first stage.

Hwacheon-gun is planning to build a large park for wild animals and a “Peace Bell” park which will be made of empty cartridges collected from DMZ and other conflict areas of the world with the idea of developing the area into a themed tourist destination.

Jae-Seong Hwang Chang-Soon Choi jsonhng@donga.com cschoi@donga.com