SEOUL, Aug. 8 (Korea Bizwire) — The Moon Jae-in administration has formally put the brakes on Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon’s ambitious bid to renovate Gwanghwamun Square, a national landmark located in the heart of the capital, officials said Thursday.
According to the officials, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety sent an official notice to the Seoul Metropolitan Government on July 30 demanding the planned expansion and renovation of Gwanghwamun Square be postponed until public opinion has been sufficiently collected.
In the notice, the ministry said, “The project to restructure Gwanghwamun Square should be pushed only after winning extensive support and understanding from the public, including the interested parties, and with the participation of leading civic groups and experts. Therefore, it should be rescheduled.”
In January, Park’s office announced that it will expand the size of Gwanghwamun Square by 3.7 times by May 2021 to transform it into the capital’s cultural, historical and transportation hub.
The central Seoul square is now surrounded by Gyeongbok Palace, the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, the Seoul Government Complex and the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, among others.
It also calls for dismantling four buildings at the Seoul Government Complex and merging its parking lot and access road into the square to make way for a new history plaza in front of Gyeongbok Palace.
In the face of objection from the interior ministry, however, the Seoul mayor’s Gwanghwamun Square renovation project is unlikely to make progress for the time being, officials said.
The interior ministry has raised an objection, saying the functions of the Seoul Government Complex won’t be maintained if the expansion project for Gwanghwamun Square proceeds as planned.
In its July 30 notice, the ministry expressed additional concern about possible traffic chaos due to substantial removal of roadways in the square.
“Civic groups and the media have raised questions about the transparency of the square renovation project, in addition to traffic-related criticism. The historic value of the Seoul Government Complex can also be undermined,” a ministry official said.
In January, Mayor Park and Kim Boo-kyum, the then interior minister, publicly exchanged barbs over the Gwanghwamun project.
Kim’s successor, Chin Young, recently said there have been many discussions with Park’s office over the issue but an agreement has yet to be reached.