|An aerial view of the 33.9-km-long Saemangeum dike on the west coast that was completed Tuesday. (Yonhap News)|
Thousands of government officials, lawmakers and diplomats, including President Lee Myung-bak, attended the completion ceremony. The seawall was open to the public shortly afterward.
The 33.9-kilometer seawall is the first part of the state project which aims to transform the Saemangeum tidal flat, located 280 kilometers south of Seoul, into a large cluster of industrial parks, tourism and leisure facilities, farmland, research centers and international business zones by 2020.
“If the government’s four-river restoration project is a way to give new life to the destroyed rivers, the Saemangeum project is the country’s first comprehensive plan to build a green city,” President Lee Myung-bak said in his congratulatory speech.
He said the government will invest up to 3 trillion won until 2020 to enhance the water quality there so that the visitors could enjoy leisure and tourism.
A total of 21 trillion won ($19.04 billion) will be invested into the 400-square-kilometer-wide reclaimed tidal flat, which is about two-thirds the size of Seoul.
Of the total, about 3 trillion won was spent on the seawall. The seawall shortens the distance between Gunsan and Buan, both in North Jeolla Province, by 50 kilometers, according to government officials.
The seawall not only plays the role of a trench wall for the area but it also has tourism features, such as an observation platform.
A parking lot with capacity for 1,778 vehicles, and rest areas will also be established.
As the government aims to use 70 percent of the reclaimed land for industrial and tourism purposes, it is expecting the number of tourists to reach up to 8.06 million people per year in 2012. The remaining 30 percent will be set aside for farming.
The number of tourists visiting Saemangeum has been increasing recently by 17.2 percent per year, according to local government officials in North Jeolla Province.
About 2.9 million people visited the region last year, they added.
By Cho Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)