The Korea Herald


Seoul lifts development ban on Insa-dong

By Suk Gee-hyun

Published : Aug. 22, 2013 - 20:18

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The Seoul government said Thursday it is lifting a 35-year development ban on Insa-dong, a popular tourist destination and a focal point of traditional culture in the northern part of Seoul.

The metropolitan government held a city planning commission meeting on Wednesday to pass a bill on redeveloping the area in increments, according to its report. Cafes, karaoke rooms and cosmetic shops are prohibited from the approval to prevent reckless development in the historical place, while antique stores and galleries are recommended.

The 33,072-square-meter area of Insa-dong was named a part of the city’s urban redevelopment plan in 1978, but no actual project has taken place until now.

Titled “customized small-unit development,” the project is aimed at securing a wider space for pedestrians and to better prepare for emergencies such as fires, while letting the developers build extensions.

According to the city’s new guideline, the ratio of floor space to land will be expanded from the current 60 percent to a maximum 80 percent.

The number of floors allowed in a building will also be changed to three to four, from the current one or two stories.

But for a wider pedestrian street and to secure fire lanes, building owners will be advised to back their building lines to broaden the 2-meter-wide street to 4 meters.

Insa-dong ranks among the most vulnerable areas to fires in Seoul. Last February, fire trucks were not able to enter the narrow streets, causing delays in putting out a fire in a restaurant in the area. The fire, extinguished after two hours, burned eight building units and injured seven.

Officials are taking a careful approach to the redevelopment plan, especially after receiving heavy blame for their project that turned the 600-year-old Pimatgol into office buildings in 2004.

“The project’s goal is to increase the value of the city. The city government will try its best to preserve Insadong’s historical features,” Kim Ji-ho, an official in charge of the city’s urban planning bureau, told The Korea Herald.

The area will be authorized to go into redevelopment after the commission makes a final announcement in October.

By Suk Gee-hyun (