|Right-wing groups gather for a rally against President Moon Jae-in at Gwanghwamun Square, Jan. 11. / Yonhap|
By Lee Suh-yoon
Rally organizers will have to start pay three times more than the usual fees to book Seoul's Gwanghwamun Square for street protests, according to a pending proposal that is being considered by the city government.
Currently, the city charges 40,000 won ($35) an hour for the 4000 square meter pedestrian space at the square ― 10 won per square meter. If the revision is passed through a citizen committee, the hourly fee will rise to 30 won per square meter, or 120,000 won per hour for the whole square. The increase could be adjusted in the committee discussions.
Our Republican Party, a far-right political group, recently had to pay 18,000 won a day for tents occupying around 54 square meters. According to the new proposed rules, they would have to pay 143,000 won.
The penalty for occupying the square without booking with the city government in advance will also be increased to around 800 percent of the normal fees, instead of the current 120 percent, according to the same proposal.
The move is partly in response to increasing noise complaints from residents living near Gwanghwamun Square, city officials said. The usage fee is also much cheaper than London's Trafalgar Square or Yokohama's Sakuragicho Square.
The city also plans to work with Jongno-gu office to come up with a set of sound restrictions for the square, possibly limiting the size of outdoor speakers used at the rallies. Those who break the rules will be imposed a 2 million won fine.