Han River Development
There’s no doubt the waterways of Europe are tourist attractions in themselves, drawing millions to stroll the banks of the River Thames in London and the River Seine in Paris every year.
Similarly, South Korea’s Han River serves as a centerpiece for the city of Seoul and its citizens, with some government officials and urban designers seeking to capitalize on the rivers’s potential as an international tourist attraction.
Bisecting the capital city, the Han has been a significant part of Korean history since its very beginning when kingdoms and dynasties fought to gain control of the river for its trading route to China and fertile banks. The Han River served a strategic position during the conflict between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It was on the worldwide stage once again as it hosted the rowing regatta during the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Today, government officials in South Korea have a dream for the Han River to elevate its attraction to the level of tourist destination like those celebrated European rivers. While some, such as Seoul’s mayor, long to restore its natural beauty, other plans under consideration place the river in danger of over-commercialization.
In fact, most recently, the world’s fifth tallest building was constructed alongside the river. Lotte World Tower opened in early April 2017, bringing office space, luxury residences, a seven-star hotel, 2000-seat concert hall, aquarium, cinema and food hall to the banks of the Han.
What does this possible growth mean for the environment of the river, as well as it’s character and the identity of Seoul itself? Are new developments giving enough consideration to the Han’s need for ecological restoration, the effects of the Four Major Rivers project, flooding mitigation and recent issues such as water quality and algal bloom?
Learn more about the background of this major urban river, it’s unique ecological habitats, and the social, political and environmental challenges of the latest renewal plans in the City Lab article below.
“The latest renewal plan hopes to see the Han become a cultural icon similar to the Thames or the Seine. But can shopping and sightseeing ferries fix the waterway’s deeper problems?”
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Photo of Hangang Railway Bridge in Seoul by Kimmo Räisänen (Flickr: Han river) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons