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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Korean Air Grounded : Seoul 7 Star Hotel Delayed

Yesterday, education authorities blocked a Korean Air project to build the country's first seven-star hotel just meters away from Gyeongbokgung and Insadong.

KAL got all the agreements for a complex which would definitely have redefined hospitality in this major touristic and cultural area : a hanok-style boutique hotel with luxury shops and exhibition facilities.

It would have been erected at the intersection between Yulgokno and Gyoyuk-gil, a narrow street leading to Jeongdok Public Library, surrounded by schools which, according to the authorities, would have been disturbed. Thus this last moment interdiction.

KAL withdrew its project for the moment, but keeps pushing for it, promising a participation in intensive archeological research : the area must be worth digging... and needless to say, the project is a potential gold mine for the company.

This site belongs to the US Embassy : about twenty grey-green houses and facilities protected with stone walls and a secured black metal gate. Size ? Judging by the map, around 30,000 square meters if you add 49-1 Seonghyeon-dong (20,203.2 sqm according to Korea Land Information System), 97-2 Sagan-dong (6,165.1 sqm), and half of 34 Seonghyeon-dong (6,229.3 sqm - shared with Deokseong Women's Middle School). The first two lots were estimated around KRW 4 M / sqm last year, the latter KRW 3 M / sqm, but for a land this big in such a location the bill must be much higher than USD 100 M. Last year, land was estimated 2.5 times higher just across Yulgokno, but a chaebol paid much more to plant its new headquarters.

I won't judge a concept I haven't seen, but I'm glad this one is based on Korean traditional architecture - I guess it wouldn't have go this far otherwise. What I'm really curious to see are the next steps.

The US Embassy is supposed to move to Yongsan during this decade, Yongsan Army Base to be turned into a huge park, and speculators to make a few dimes in the process. Beyond Songhyeon-dong facilities, what will happen to the main building, in the dead middle of Sejongno ? I wouldn't bet a buck on its "hanokization".

Seoul Village 2010

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