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Gov’t aims to turn Sewoon into web of walkways

Sept 20,2017
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Renovation of the Sewoon Electronics Department Store is unveiled on Tuesday with its elevated walkway, which the Seoul city government intends to extend into a web of walkways between buildings in downtown Seoul. [SHIN IN-SEOP]
The Seoul city government celebrated the renovation of the Sewoon Electronics Department Store on Tuesday at its elevated walkway, which the city intends to extend into a web of walkways between buildings that will stretch out nearly 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from Jongmyo to Toegye-ro, near Namsan.

“From 2014 to September, we have pitched in a total of 53.5 billion won [$47.4 million] to renovate the dilapidated department store and its neighborhood and recreate the walkway that connects the Sewoon store and the Daelim Department Store next to it,” the Seoul Metropolitan Government said in its press release. “The Sewoon store area will be a hub of startups and creative production.”

The Sewoon department store, built in 1967, enjoyed an economic boom in the 1970s and became the hub of electronic and metal products manufacturing. Its establishment was followed by others in the area in the 1970s, including the Cheonggye, Daelim, Sampoong, Shinsung and Jinyang department stores.

“The area used to be called the mecca of inner-city mechanics production, but many businesses moved out after the Gangnam District was developed, and businesses in the Sewoon store neighborhood never really recovered after that,” the city government said. “For 3.5 years, we worked on rejuvenating the area, and for this we have 17 new startups opening doors at the Sewoon department store.”

As part of the ongoing project into 2020, the city said it will extend the walkway from the Sewoon and Daelim stores to Toegye-ro, which measures nearly 1 kilometer. The current walkway is some 420 meters (459 yards) long.

“With the revitalization of the Sewoon store neighborhood, we intend to expand the energy further with the creation of the walkway to connect different parts of Seoul,” said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. “I do believe and hope that the renovated Sewoon area will prove to be the hub of the fourth industrial revolution in the city, where the existing production system meets the new technology of the era.”

But the renovation was not without opposition from residents.

“The Seoul city government had originally planned to demolish the dilapidated Sewoon store and build a park there in 2009,” said Oh Seung-je, an official at the vity government’s Urban Regeneration Headquarters. “There was strong opposition from the residents and business owners there, so the plan was delayed for years.”

Some residents oppose government-led reconstruction plans because they have to shoulder the cost with the government, and those who cannot afford to do so end up having to move out.

“We started speaking with residents and business owners there, and we agreed in 2014 to renovate the store instead of completely overhauling it,” Oh said. “We’ll continue to plan the walkway into February next year, and by 2020, we’ll have a walkway that stretches out all the way from Jongmyo to Namsan.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]