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Seoul to develop shanty town in Gangnam

December 8, 2014
Guryong Village, a shanty town in Seoul's most affluent district, Gangnam, is seen against the backdrop of high-rise buildings. (NEWSis)

Guryong Village, a shanty town in Seoul’s most affluent district, Gangnam, is seen against the backdrop of high-rise buildings. (NEWSis)

By Lee Kyung-min

The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and Gangnam District Office have agreed to resume a long-stalled project to develop a shanty town in the most affluent district in Seoul, officials said Friday.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Shin Yeon-hee, head of the district office, will hold a joint press conference next week to announce details of the agreement, an SMG official said.

The SMG and the district office have long been at odds over how to develop Guryong Village, considered the last remaining urban slum in Seoul, and how to compensate the residents.

“The SMG has decided to accept the district office’s demands regarding how to develop the area,” the SMG official said.

The SMG’s change of stance was prompted by a fire in the village on Nov. 10 that left one person dead and destroyed the homes of 136 people. It was the eleventh fire in the village since 2009.

“We understood the urgency for the government to take swift action, since political gridlock means nothing when people die and lose their homes,” the official said.

The village has many illegally built makeshift houses with flammable materials.

The fire was caused by loose electric chords built in violation of safety guidelines, the police said at the time.

The day after the accident, Mayor Park and Shin visited the site, pledging to resume the stalled negotiation for the development.

The development project started in 2011 under former Mayor Oh Se-hoon. The SMG initially planned to buy land in the town and build 2,800 new houses to rent to residents. After Park took office, the SMG proposed an alternative development plan, under which landholders would be given back 18 percent of the land in the village and the remainder would be purchased by the SMG for public development, citing the huge development costs.

The SMG said it will adopt the original plan, which will cost it some 200 billion won ($179 million) more. The SMG said it will issue bonds via SH Corp., owned by the city government, to finance the project.

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