Monday, September 24, 2018

Land mining Seoul

Seoul is once again* about to lose more of its ever shrinking greenbelt area. The main difference with last time? Mayor PARK Won-soon is opposing the move, because it might hurt his presidential ambitions: even if acted now, the move wouldn't translate into new dwellings before 6 to 7 years, and trees would be torn down too close to the 2022 elections.

'Shame on 's Ministry of Land and Territory, which is considering reducing even more 's protected greenbelt areas to provide more . When there's already oversupply, and fewer people living in the capital!' (20180921 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1042933809820446720)

'This time, mayor is opposing the move, which may backfire for his presidential bid' (20180921 - twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/1042948381071630338)
Seoul does want to add 62,000 dwellings, by using idle land and relaxing FAR rules. The Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs targets 50,000, but to achieve that goal, intends to tear down greenbelt areas (300,000 sqm).

This good-cop-bad-cop routine between the government and PARK Won-soon doesn't fool anyone. Particularly the week MOON Jae-in all but knighted him as first in line of succession by inviting him (along with his Gangwon-do rival) to Pyongyang for his third summit with KIM Jong-un, pretexting their first-in-line-when-the-gimchi-hits-the-fan-ness (nevermind Gyeonggi-do).

Anyway, MOON's government doesn't have much to lose in taking the blame for destroying Seoul's last lungs: they're not running in 2022, and they are already under fire for their miserable handling of real estate bubbles: everything they try is fueling them now, in anticipation of their downfall. The intentions are good, but like Paris with environment, they leave it up to an ideological ayatollah with little understanding of environmental and economical collateral damage.

Anyway, speculation keeps ruining Seoul. To the point that in some instances, pools of homeowners bully, boycott, and force into bankruptcy realtors who dare post prices too low for their taste.

One thing is sure: there is already an oversupply of dwellings, and Seoul's population has shrunk under PARK Won-soon's watch. Gaping inequalities remain, and heavy regulation is required, but adding further artificial and counterproductive distortions won't help. New social housing projects should propose prices that are fair and affordable, not cowardly indexed at bubble-level-minus-20%.

An opening of North Korea would definitely change the equation. Co-organizing Olympics with North Korea in 2032? Not so much. And where would they be held, without abandoning the one-city rule? Seoul-Pyongyang? Kaesong? Panmunjom?

Seoul Village 2018
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* see "We reject as false the choice between our welfare and our well being", "Tighten your greenbelt"... 
** "풀어도 문제, 놔둬도 고민"…서울 그린벨트 '딜레마' (Chosun Ilbo 20180919)

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