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Environmentalists object to Seorak cable car plan

June 17,2017
YANGYANG COUNTY, Gangwon - The Yangyang County Office in Gangwon gained permission to resume a cable car construction project on one of the country’s most beloved mountains, Mount Seorak, igniting backlash from local environmentalists who have opposed the decision for months.

The Central Administrative Appeals Commission, an arbitration organ under the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, ruled in favor of the county on Thursday and said the Cultural Heritage Administration’s decision not to grant permission was invalid.

The Cultural Heritage Administration had disallowed the county office from building a 3.5 kilometer (2.2 mile) cable car line on Mount Seorak, saying that the construction project would wreak havoc to the livelihood of mountain goats and natural reserve zones.

The arbitration group said Thursday that the heritage administration had “leaned way too much on preserving the original form” of Mount Seorak, overlooking ways to make practical use of the given resources.

By domestic law, the Cultural Heritage Administration has to accept the appeals commission’s ruling and give the green light to Yangyang to restart their project.

Yangyang’s cable car initiative launched in September 2015 after the Ministry of Environment granted it approval. Mount Seorak being a government-designated natural reserve area, the county office also needed permission from the Cultural Heritage Administration, but was blocked when the heritage group disapproved in late December that year.

Yangyang County Office appealed the decision this March.

After Thursday’s ruling was handed down, Yangyang’s county chief, Kim Jin-ha, said his office would heed public concerns about the environment and try to build an eco-friendly cable car.

In a joint press conference at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, environmentalist groups said they would take every possible legal measure to overturn the ruling, calling it “beyond senseless.”

Park Geu-rim, co-director of a civic group whose purpose lies in protecting Seorak, pledged to do “whatever it takes to block the cable car project” so that Korea’s next generation can relish the mountain in its well-preserved form.

Kim In-na, an official from a group of residents near the mountain who oppose the project, said the appeals commission on Thursday was “utterly ignorant and uncouth,” adding she will never accept the decision and “fight until the very end.”

BY PARK JIN-HO, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]