By Kim Hyun-bin
Seoul plans to redevelop Yeouido, allowing private companies to build more high-rise buildings and apartments there.
The city government said it would rebuild the financial district from the ground up to make it look like a new metropolis within the capital.
At the same time, it plans to make room for more recreational spaces, big shopping malls, a library and a hospital along the rail link between Yongsan and Seoul stations.
This is part of efforts not only to further modernize the areas apparently to remake Seoul in the image of other international cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong, but also to boost tourism and the meeting, incentive trip, convention, exhibition and event (MICE) industry.
"We seek to redevelop Yeouido as a whole with more community areas and high-rise buildings," Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon told the press recently.
"We plan to cover up the city's aboveground rail lines connecting Seoul and Yongsan stations and build shopping and exhibition centers there."
The city government plans to unveil its comprehensive Yeouido reconstruction plan next month.
It is expected to introduce its Yongsan master plan in September.
"We are looking to share the development costs for Yeouido with private companies, and are currently in talks with KORAIL to come up with a cost estimate for Yongsan," a city official said.
Currently, Seoul forbids companies from constructing apartment buildings with more than 35 stories in the financial district.
The Yeouido reconstruction plan is expected to "ease" this restriction, enabling them to build 50-story apartments with shopping and recreational centers.
"We will move to allow the construction of high-rise buildings in accordance with the master plan," Mayor Park said.
Park also pointed out the need to fully relocate U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan for the redevelopment of the area.
"Embassy housing and the Dragon Hill Lodge need to be relocated to further reshape Yongsan-gu," Park said.
"In the long run I want the Ministry of National Defense to relocate. But this should be part of the city's next plan that could be carried out by the next generation."
Seoul seeks to cover the tracks connecting Yongsan and Seoul stations to build key infrastructure including a library and hospitals in a similar scale to Paris' Rive Gauche project that has brought success in turning a slum into a bustling district.
Rive Gauche was a rail hub in the 1980s, similar to Yongsan. In 1990, Paris covered the tracks spanning over a large area equivalent to the size of 40 football fields. The Paris government sold the newly built space to private enterprises for redevelopment.