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Friday, January 29, 2010

Yongsan-Gangnam-Bundang subway completed in 2017

Seoul Village 2010 - Bundang, Gangnam, Yongsan... the New Bundang subway line seems to be going back in time as it links symbols of the 2000s, 1980s, and 1960s. Will it go back all the way to the 1390s and Seoul city center some day ?

In 2017, 7.5 km will be added to the "Sinbundangseon" (신분당선), connecting Gangnam Station with Yongsan Station. The inauguration of the first section (17.3 km from Jeongja Station in Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do to Gangnam Station) was postponed from July 2010 to September 2011.

Joining Bundang business district and Pangyo New Town directly with the Northern half of the capital city is already an important step, but extensions all the way up to Gwanghwamun and Gyeongbokgung stations were also considered at one stage (POSCO plan).

Yesterday, the government already announced a total of KRW 18.6 for railways, ports, and logistics, plus 22.9 tn for roads. The Sin Bundang extension is expected to cost W 900 bn excluding expropriations, and for the moment it is supposed to cross the Yongsan Army Base... which means delays and additional costs are more than likely.

Section to be inaugurated next year (3.2 + 8 + 2.9 + 1.7 + 1.5 = 17.3 km) :

. Jeongja station (connected with Bundang Line)
. Pangyo station (new station, future Yeoju Line, heading for Southeastern Gyeonggi-do)
. Cheonggye / Cheonggyesan station (new station)
. Yangjae Citizen's Forest / Maeheon (new station)
. Yangjae station / Seocho-gu Office (subway Line 3)
. Gangnam station (subway Line 2)

Extension decided yesterday (7.5 km) :

. SinNonhyeon (subway Line 9) - to be confirmed
. Nonhyeon (subway Line 7)
. Sinsa (subway Line 3)
. Seobinggo (station of the Yongsan-Deokso section of the old Jungang Line)
. Ichon Station / National Museum (subway Line 4, Yongsan-Deokso)
. Yongsan Station (subway Line 1, KTX bullet train, Yongsan-Deokso)

Ari, Arirang, Ari, Ariul City

Seoul Village 2010 - Korea loves urban planning from scratch : obliterating a whole chunk of an old city to make room for an anonymous new town, building an orwellian international city on the sea (see Songdo ubiquitous city), or even planting a new capital in the middle of nowhere (see the Sejong City telenovela)... now combine all this with the ecotourism fad and you get "Ariul".

The latest avatar of the Saemangeum Embankment project, a local drama I've been following ever since I set foot for the first time in the peninsula in 1991*, Ariul (아리울) was presented yesterday by the Office of the Prime Minister.

By 2020, this "waterfront city" is supposed to attract flocks of eco-tourists and international business travelers to a polder to be created along the Saemangeum Seawall, a 33 km-long dyke built at the mouth of the Mangyeong River (between Gunsan and Buan, with a halfway stop in the former island of Sinsido).

That pharaonic embankment had already caused major uproars in environmental circles, and one can expect similar reactions for this KRW 21 trillion, dubaiesque project covering the equivalent of two thirds of Seoul city.

At least, it won't be a bridge to nowhere anymore.

What strikes most in the new master plan is the circular road around the city center... a body of water surrounded by thematic blocks : international business, industry, residential, ecology / environment / media (?), scientific research, renewable energy, agriculture, leisure / tourism. That last cluster will be modeled after Venice and Amsterdam, and this lovely utopia will be connected to the real world by new or improved highways, plus a new Saemangeum-Gunsan railway.

At this pace, by the end of year 2050, "eco-tourists" will be able to drive from Gwanghwa-do to Jeju-do as seamlessly as along the Florida keys...

If you wonder what a new port, complete with industries, and all this real estate frenzy have to do with "eco-tourism", welcome on board. If you wonder why this polluted spot was selected for a water tourism utopia, learn that one seventh of the budget is devoted to improve the quality of water to make the said utopia relevant. If you wonder why 20% of the land is devoted to agriculture, it's simply because city planners thought that that poorly located cluster wouldn't attract investors (this heresy shouldn't last if the program proves to be a success). And if you wonder how this zillionth "Eastern Asian Ubiquitous Well Being Green Hubopia" will position itself against its countless national rivals already under construction, go figure.

Who will pay ? The next president, the next generations of taxpayers, and the next generations of people condemned to live in an artificial environment.

To whom do we owe this brilliant mess ? Lee Myung-bak is only following the pledge of Kim Young-sam, who promised it to Jeolla-do voters during his 1992 campaign. The "bulldozer" president couln't decently pull the plug on that one just weeks after abandoning his pledge to Chungcheong-do voters, made during his own 2007 campaign : keeping Sejong City (and Roh Moo-hyun promises) alive. But Lee hasn't given up his own fabled Four river project... The day presidential candidates stop destroying their country with insane promises, Korea will probably feel better.

To me, Ariul sounds like the nth regional version of the old folk song Arirang. Only this time the subject would be that other eternal love of Koreans : real estate.


* in Gimpo airport of course (from Paris via Tokyo because you couldn't fly to Korea over Russia). But land had already been claimed from the sea for Incheon airport : when I first visited Yongyu-do, it was already connected with Yeongjong-do, even if you had to take a ferry from Wolmido.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Universal Studios Korea in Hwaseong

Universal Parks and Resorts will open its sixth and biggest park in Songsan Green City (Songsan-myeon, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi-do), just opposite China and South of Incheon, its international airport closer than ever since the opening of the new bridge.

As usually the case in such projects, the theme park is only part of a huge real estate project, complete with golf, hotels, outlets, and condos. But 4.3 M square meters is really massive. There will be a water park and a CityWalk similar to the Universal Studios Hollywood concept. Steven Spielberg will apply his own label, very much the Jack Nicklaus way (his version of "War of the Worlds" has a spot in USH as well).

Construction starts in March and the park should be inaugurated in 2014, two years behind the initial schedule (announced in 2007), and one after the Marvel Entertainment theme park planned in Busan (see "
Beefing up Korea").

Along with its partners Lotte Group (26.7% via Lotte Asset Development) and POSCO Engineering & Construction (24.4%), Universal's Korean unit USKOR & Associates Co. added a dozen investors to the financing pool. The project is expected to cost USD 2.7 bn and the initial capital to reach USD 400 M. Not necessarily direct foreign investment, but a potential magnet for the whole region.

Highway 15 is bound to bring the bulk of the traffic from Incheon and Seoul, but the Sihwa sea dike may see part of the flow reach Songsan via Ansan and Daebudo. Southwestern Gyeonggi-do tourism should get a big boost, so let's hope seashores and nice areas will be preserved. Local authorities should watch for over development, and preserve the identity of the area beyond the park to really make a difference.

It's good for business to open such a franchise, but it's better if visitors can tell this difference from Hollywood, Orlando, Osaka, Dubai or Singapore.

Seoul Village 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spotlights on the Russian Legation

It's been a couple of weeks now : they've removed the scaffoldings around the Russian Legation in Jeong-dong (Jung-gu) and started lighting it up at night*. On its snowy hill, the restored white tower shines almost 24 hours a day in spite of the nearby high-rises.

The 3-storey Russian Legation is a National Treasure because of its architecture and its role as a refuge for King Gojong in 1896-97, following the murder of Empress Myeongseong (then Min Daebi / Queen Min) by Japanese agents, and before moving to Deoksugung to declare the short lived Korean Empire.

This episode is known as the royal refuge at the Russian legation (Agwan Pacheon).

Seoul Village 2010

* from the apartments recently built just below the hill.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

TRCK lost in translation or lost in transition ?

According to OhMyNews*, translators are considering suing Lee Young-Jo, the new President of Korea's Truth and Reconciliation Commission**, for defamation.

One of the first decisions of Lee Young-Jo was to ban the English brochure published by the TRCK in March 2009 to present its recent achievements ("Truth and Reconciliation - Activities of the Past Three Years") because "it is biased and the English is incorrect". Translators deny the charges and OhMyNews couldn't get any example of translation errors from the organization.

Since I'm not a native English speaker, I cannot judge what's grammatically correct... but "the Park military junta introduced an extreme right-wing Fascist regime into Korean society during a time when the nation lacked thoughts, values, and awareness of democracy" may sound politically incorrect. I reckon the cover of the report featuring civilian massacres could also hurt the feelings of ultra-conservatives who would prefer to keep the lid on such inconvenient truths (not to mention the feelings of grieving families).

Maybe Lee Young-Jo, a TRCK commissioner since 2005 and a fluent English speaker, saw the document under a different light after his nomination... I wouldn't dare imagining that his very nomination, under a conservative government, was part of a scheme to undermine the formidable achievements of the TRCK under his predecessors. Yet, several medias point out Mr Lee's own conservative credentials as an eminent leader of the New Right movement***, and a SisaIN article even evokes a possible sabotage of the organization, and past efforts from the New Right to revise history textbooks****.

If this book ban proves to be actually an act of censorship, I wonder what kind of changes could be already happening within this up to now irreproachable organization...

As we saw earlier, the TRCK did such a good job in performing its missions that it was politically impossible for ultra-conservatives to put an end to it. If their intention is to discreetly sabotage it, it is bound to backfire and at the end of the day, President Lee Myung-bak will have to make a choice : maintain the TRCK on its original tracks, or let the discredit and international uproar hurt his own image.

Seoul Village 2010.

all posts related to TRCK.

* "Translators upset by 'New Right Truth and Reconciliation Commission'" ("
번역자들, '뉴라이트 진실화해위'에 뿔났다" - 20100113 updated 20100114).
** we mentioned his nomination last December in "
Achievements and Tasks of TRCK's Activities".
*** Last month I was a little bit disturbed by his resume but didn't find any website about these organizations : Lee Young-jo was President of the Capitalism Economy and Nationalism Research Center and Secretary General of the Citizens United for Better Society
**** "New Right received by past Commission" ("
뉴라이트가 접수한 과거사정리위원회" - SisaIn 20091221)

ADDENDUM 20100225

Testimonies from proofreaders

Proofreader 1

As a proofreader, I think the English proofreading and editing is accurate. Three native English speakers read it. Personally, I have over five years of experience editing and proofreading. This includes working for a professional translation agency that works on corporate documents. I've also worked for several other government organizations. This project was probably the largest and most thoroughly read book I've worked on. I personally reread each article or piece 3-4 times. It was then usually sent out in an email list for others to read - many of these people included native English speakers and we'd ask them to comment if there were any English problems. These articles were then included in a newsletter, which was reread once more so there were probably 5-7 readings before it was put together as a book. After it was put together as a book, it was reread 4 times by just me. This doesn't include the other copy editors so in total, this book was probably proofread close to 10 - 12 times before it was finally released

Proofreader 2

I'm not involved in the politics, nor do I want to be, but I will say that the documents I helped proofread was one of the best translations I've ever gotten. I don't know at what point in the proofreading process I was, although I suspect I was one of the final proofreaders, but as a professional proofreader and sometimes translator for the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, for five years, this was one of the most well written and fluidly expressed document I have ever come across in English. In fact, one of the things that occurred to me when reading this document was how easy the process was. There were very few major mistakes to correct, and it occurred to me that the level of correction required by me was no higher than that of proofreading and academic work written by a native speaker of English. I can't comment too much on the translation aspect of this job, however, claiming that the English was incorrect, or poorly written, is simply not true. The final document. that I saw was a professional piece of well-written academic English. One might disagree with his conclusions, or the content of the document itself, but it was not poorly written.

ADDENDUM 20100405

In yesterday's Korea Times : "Forbidden Book Haunts Truth Commission"

ADDENDUM 20100415

According to Leigh Payne ("Banning of English Report on Findings"), Lee Young-jo doesn't seem to be consistent with his missions, and "we would expect the president of a truth commission investigating past authoritarian practices to use democratic processes and respect democratic freedoms." Ouch.

ADDENDUM 20100506

One step beyond : "Truth commission sued for 'political censorship'"

ADDENDUM 20100528

"Power, justice and truth", the testimony of KIM Sung-soo. The former head of the international cooperation team of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission filed a lawsuit for defamation against the President of the TRC, who didn't seem very much into truth nor reconciliation.

ADDENDUM 20100604

First TRCK Newsletter in ages. Apparently, Mr LEE is preparing his defense : the letter is all about the TRCK's president and his personal activity over the past 6 months. But not much about cases studied in 2010...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Let It Snow

I took this small video last Monday, under a bright sun in Gyeonghuigung, downtown Seoul, from the playground right behind the palace :

Unfortunately, the soundtrack is provided by
Haemil, the green glass building coming right after the palace in this amateur 360 panorama (then there's an old villa, Space Bon in the background, and we're back to the woods on the hill separating Sajik-dong from Gyonam-dong).

Chung Mong-joon's think tank recently moved into their new headquarters and as you can hear, the big air-con blocks that spoiled our game* are working fine. As you can see, they eventually decided not to replace the wall, completing the "illusion" that they own the place... to the risk of causing incidents : particularily with this snow, visitors to the palace cannot see the deep gap in front of them (what to say about kids playing nearby...).

Anyway, nothing could ruin this beautiful day, nor the magic of Seoul under the snow. Sounds carry differently too. Yesterday morning, I heard the rooster from my window.

Seoul Village 2010

* see "Haemil construction, continued (game interrupted)"

NB: from now on we'll refer to the building as the ASAN Institute HQ instead of Haemil HQ. The AIPS / ASAN Institute for Policy Studies was named after Chung Ju-yung's nickname and hometown (Mr Chung's father founded the Hyundai Group).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

INCA and other Peruvian civilizations (National Museum of Korea)

Now here is an exhibition you shouldn't miss : a unique display of often striking artifacts from twenty ancient Andean civilizations and nine Peruvian museums. Incas only form the tip of the iceberg because they were the last one, uniting for a rather short period a very large territory before being exterminated by Pizarro & co.

What always puzzles me with pre-columbian art is the paradox between the relative lack of social evolution over centuries, and the apparent absence of norms in arts and crafts, a source for incredible diversity and creativity. I guess it reflects a vision of the World where the laws of nature - even as gods - put politics backstage compared to say in Egypt.

And here, from the most exquisite stone pectoral to the most libertine earthenware, from the most colorful 3,000 year-old fabrics to the most surprising shamanist nurse Barbies, from the cutest llama to the creepiest mask, curators made sure you never have the impression to see twice the same thing. Not all boards are fully translated, but mummies or skulls with multiple trepanations don't require tons of explanations.

Literally a golden opportunity.

INCA - The Great Myth and Mystery of Peruvian Civilization
National Museum of Korea 20091211-20100328
Tel 1588.7862
website :

Seoul Village 2010

PS: maybe this impressive display has something to do with the recent visit of the Peruvian president in Korea. He was so enthusiastic he prolonged his stay. This exhibition won't so go visit it before the end of March !

Friday, January 1, 2010

Utsav (Seoul)

This promising new place between Hongik University and Sangsu Station proposes an ambitious fusion menu and architecture where patrons can taste various Asian foods around an exotic yet modern patio.

On the verge of pretension, this contrast of subtle flavors and grey concrete succeeds overall because the food is more than ok. No one can get every speciality perfectly right (Thailand, Indonesia, India...), but that's a good moment if you come with friends and zap from one dish to another. Utsav also proposes buffets at a reasonable price (smart launch campaign last year).

Utsav / 웃사브 (restaurant)
93-102 Sangsu-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, ROK
Tel: +82.2.334.9189

Seoul Village

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