Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mayor OH Se-hoon answers

I recently e-mailed the office of Seoul Mayor OH Se-hoon about Haemil's headquarters (CHUNG Mong-joon's think tank / bunker, still under construction right behind the Gyeonghui Palace*), candidly wondering if all the short and long term consequences - cultural as well as political - had fully been taken into account.

This very kind answer came this morning :

Answers from the Seoul Metropolitan Government to Stephane MOT

Dear Stephane MOT

Thank you for your special love to Seoul.

As you know, Seoul has been doing various projects in order to rejuvenate the 600-year-old tradition and identity of Seoul, such as Seoul Walls, and Gyeonghuigung. Some buildings of Gyeunghuigung, which was lost during the Japanese occupation including Sungjeongjeon, Taeryeongjeon, Jajeongjeon, and Hangerang were successfully restored. However, the ground of Gyeonghuigung, Historical Site No. 271 failed to escape the wide-ranging abuse inflicted on the buildings and lands being sold. As a result, the area around the cultural site belong to private ownders.

While we understand that we must recover the old territory of Gyeonghuigung, there are too many obstacles so the Cultural Properties Administration, after a series of deliberations and discussions, notified a standard to change the area around the ground of Gyeonghuigung on Feb. 18, 2008.

According to the notification, the Thinktank building will be in the 2-1 Section on the East of the ground of Gyeonghuigung, where a building with up to 3 stories (12m) will be allowed to stand. A cultural asset agency has surveyed the site for the building, and the Cultural Properties Administration received the exploration results and allowed the construction project.

We’d like to express our deep appreciation for your love to the tradition and history of Seoul, and your precious proposal to protect the ground of the royal building. But please be informed and understand that we cannot infringe the right of private property beyond certain limit due to a cultural asset.

My best wish for your health, prosperity, and happiness.

Best regards,

Oh Se-hoon
Mayor of Seoul

So the decision to "change the area" came "after a series of deliberations and discussions", and the Cultural Properties Administration (now The Cultural Heritage Administration) gave the nod to the project after "a cultural asset agency (...) surveyed the site"**.

In other words : the zoning law was changed to make this construction possible, but neither institution (Seoul, CHA) can be blamed, sorry if we cannot infringe the right of private ambition beyond certain limit.

So be it then... but I'm really curious to see how people will react to Haemil's bold, political statement.

It surely can't be compared with say the Louvres pyramid, at the time a very controversial architectural project, but central to a monument's comprehensive overhaul by the public administration.

Once again, I’m glad that Seoul is growing new architectural landmarks, and this one, in a different context, could be alright (for all I know, it may even be celebrated next year, during the Seoul 2010 Design Capital festivities). But under the circumstances, this project definitely looks like bad PR for everyone.

I hope next projects around cultural assets will receive extra care.

My best wish for your health, prosperity, and happiness as well.

Seoul Village 2009

* see "CHUNG Mong-joon keeps rising...", following "Haemil - A Think Tank or only a tank ?"

** they probably found something interesting during the survey because there was a lot of time between the ground breaking and the actual digging. The big crane on palace grounds didn't raise many objections either.

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