Saturday, March 21, 2009

Haemil - a Think-Tank or only a Tank ?

Now that I know what's growing up right next to Gyeonghuigung and for which purpose, I understand how such a massive building could get an authorization just meters away from a supposedly protected cultural heritage.

Picture this : overlooking the beautiful roof of the palace, a big green glass building covering 6 levels.

To be fair, 3 of the said levels are basements... but that's according to the builders : actually, the first basement is above ground so 4 levels will rise above the ground. Worse : the new building will not only be higher than its neighbors (claiming a unique view on the interior of the palace), but also cover much more space than the previous constructions (confirmed by satellite pictures)... which is theoretically impossible if you respect local real estate regulations.

Considering the very strict construction rules in Shinmunro area*, Mayor Oh Se-hoon's repeated pledges to protect downtown Seoul, and the official public ambition to regain the parts of the Gyeonghuigung claimed by colons during the Japanese occupation, such a monster should never have be allowed on the very grounds of the palace.

I guess there was some debate, or even archeological findings, because the ground remained bare for months (small Caterpillars came and went, and that was all). But if they happened, those debates were not made public. And the project was OKayed by Seoul City.

So this green hulk will be built.

Its purpose ? Hosting Chung Mong-joon's think-tank, Haemil.

I don't know if this green tank will think, and I don't know if the 30 or so experts meeting there will come up with a new vision for Korea... but for sure they won't have to come all the way up the building to enjoy a beautiful vision on Korean heritage !

Alright, other architectural atrocities have been committed in the area, but the Seoul Museum of History and the Seoul Museum of Art Annex (SeMa GyeongHuiGung) are not that close to the palace itself, and they belong to the public.

The Haemil Research Institute owes its name to an old expression translated by "the clean, blue sky after a heavy rain shower'' or "serenity after the rain". This shouldn't be misunderstood as a tribute to his founder's legendary hot temper, but as an ambition to find sensible solutions to today's political and financial tempests.

As a matter of fact, Chung Mong-joon plans to become the next Korean President in 2012. And Oh Se-hoon, who seems to be waiting for the next wave (2017) after a second term at the helm of Seoul, probably doesn't want to interfere...

Chung could also target the presidency of FIFA... in which case building a second launching pad in the same area as the KFA headquarters make perfect sense.

I sincerely wish him and Haemil the best, but I also wish their rising were not that literal.

* particularly here, in the middle of a thin band with the most restrictive rules according to official maps (category one).

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