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Seoul Floating Island stays afloat

Posted September. 14, 2013 04:18,   


The Seoul Floating Island, an artificial island in the Han River, was once named "Soul Flora," referring to the Roman goddess of flowers and the season of spring. When former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon first announced the plan in 2007 to build the island, it was given the current name. When the design was concluded in the following year, it was named "Soul Flora." It was designed to consist of three islands in the shape of a flower seed, a flower bud and a flower in full blossom. The builder was also named the Soul Flora Consortium.

When Seoul was named the host of the 2010 Group of 20 (G20) Summit, Oh wanted to use the island as the venue. Although he argued that the island was the best place for promoting the "Miracle of the Han River," he probably intended to promote his "Han River Renaissance" and "Design Seoul" projects. However, the G20 preparatory committee rejected the proposal, saying that the island was too small for the major international event where protocols, security and safety were of key importance. In fact, the actual venue of KOEX complex in southern Seoul had 36,000 square meters of exhibition space alone, nearly nine times larger than the biggest of the islet.

The Floating Island was given a new name "Sebit Dungdung Seom" -- pure Korean words with a similar meaning in 2011, when it was first opened to the public. "Sebit" refers to the three primary colors and symbolizes diversity, harmony and unity. However, many people confused it with "Saebit," meaning "new light." Even media reports often misspelled the name.

In real life, the island was a factor for conflicts, not unity, as it became the target of the current mayor`s drive to erase the legacies of his processor. Mayor Park Won-soon launched a special inspection of the project as soon as he was sworn in and branded it as a "total failure." After that, the structure was left unattended for 28 months, degenerating as the city`s unsightly monstrosity. The 139 billion won (128 million U.S. dollars) in construction expenses cost the city 600 million won (552,232 dollars) in monthly financial expenses. Amid mounting criticism for idling a costly structure, however, the city announced Thursday that it would seek ways to utilize it. Can Seoul revive the spirit of "Sebit"?