Sunday, June 19, 2011

Seoul-Incheon canal

Since his reelection (see "OH Se-hoon V2.0"), the Mayor of Seoul has been constantly struggling with an opposition-dominated city council*.

The mother of all battles ? School meals : the DP voted to make them free for all elementary school students regardless of familial revenues, but OH wanted a fairer welfare system redistributing more to the poor. Note that in France, political parties opposing free meals for all are generally left leaning, but Korea is obviously a different story. Anyway, to undo the change, the Mayor collected 800,000 signatures from Seoul citizens, well over the 400,000 or so needed. Still, he's now ready to jeopardize his political future in a referendum on the issue.

But officially, OH Se-hoon is less interested in the road to Cheong Wa Dae than in the Seoul-Incheon canal, a new battlefield for which he is even willing to end his boycott of city council meetings.

Officially called Gyeongin Canal, the project connects Incheon with Gimpo, but OH wants boats to continue all the way to Yeouido, where he plans to build a port (bridges also have to be renovated in the process). In his words : the government already set the table, Seoul just has to put its own dishes to enjoy the meal.

What's on the menu ? Among other delicacies, cruise ships loaded with Chinese tourists. Increasingly hopping from hub to hub across the whole region (Incheon, Busan, Fukuoka...), they don't pay hotel rooms, but can be taxed for each night... Freight also represents a big business, and road traffic between the Port of Incheon and the Capital could be considerably reduced.

Incheon (then Jemulpo) was chosen for good reasons : it's the perfect landing spot, and not just for McArthur. If you take a map, the Han river reaches the Yellow Sea near Ganghwa island following a trickier path and furthermore, it is now the frontier with North Korea (these days, you never know who's shooting whom in this area).

You've probably already seen the Gyeongin Canal on the way from or to Incheon Airport : that's the huge construction site parallel to the highway (North). The project was stalled for years but has been revived about two years ago, when the Four Great Rivers project gained momentum. And like with the whole Sa Dae Gang project, the environmental debate is far from over.

But even if this project happens to fold, you can always ride a boat for just KRW 4,000 per hour in the recently inaugurated Seoul Marina. Or join Mangwon Hangang Park by ferry with your bike for just KRW 1,000.

Hey, Hangang Renaissance is not just hype after all.

Seoul Village 2011
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* not always for the worse - I'm glad some of his pet projects were axed : see "
The fastuous and the furious : trimming down Seoul city's most embarrassing projects"

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