[Editorial] Heightened safety concerns

By Korea Herald

Seoul City, Lotte must allay public’s anxiety

  • Published : Aug 11, 2014 - 21:06
  • Updated : Aug 11, 2014 - 21:06
The Lotte World Tower & Lotte World Mall, comprising what is to be the tallest building on the Korean Peninsula at the height of 555 meters and three adjacent buildings, continues to be plagued by safety concerns today, ahead of the proposed opening of the three mall buildings.

Safety issues have been at the forefront of Lotte Group’s list of troubles ever since the initial plan to build the landmark building was unveiled in the 1990s. After abandoning the project at one point, construction finally began in 2010 and the Lotte World Tower is expected to be completed by December 2016. In the meantime, three mall buildings have been finished and await opening for business pending final approval by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Lotte Group’s original plan was to open the mall buildings in June in advance of the completion of the skyscraper and use the income generated from the mall to bankroll the mammoth project.

That plan hit a stumbling block when Seoul City rejected Lotte Group’s application for a permit to open the buildings for business in early June. In doing so, it gave Lotte a list of 82 items that needed to be rectified before filing another application by Aug. 18. The Seoul Metropolitan Government explained that most of the items on the list involve traffic issues as the opening of mega malls is expected to cause heavy congestion in the area.

However, the five large sinkholes that have appeared in areas around the massive construction site in recent months and the drying up of the nearby Seokchon Lake have raised an alarm among the public, who have become more conscious about safety following the Sewol ferry disaster.

While Seoul City claims that the sinkholes and the drying up of the lake are likely not related to the construction of the Lotte World Tower & Lotte World Mall, citizens remain skeptical given the lack of an alternative explanation.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said it would release the results of a study on the sinkholes this week. Seoulites should know what is causing the potentially dangerous sinkholes and the drying up of the lake and what will be done to prevent any recurrence.

Lotte Group continues to lose money each day the mall opening is delayed. The group says it is losing 90 billion won in sales each month it remains closed. Needless to say, the suppliers and tenants, mostly SMEs, are also hurting from the delay.

While Seoul City should be transparent and forthcoming about the causes of the sinkholes and the drying up of the lake, Lotte should also do its part in allaying the anxieties of neighborhood residents and the general public.

Unless the new buildings and the surrounding area are proven safe and their safety is communicated clearly to the public, people may stay away from the malls. And that is bad business for both Lotte and Seoul City.