A cable car construction boom is underway across the nation. According to reports, more than 30 cable car projects are being promoted or planned by local governments.
For instance, Geoje City in South Gyeongsang Province is building a 1.93-kilometer-long cable car line on Geojedo Island off the southern coast. City officials expect the 42 billion won project, when completed in 2017, will attract more tourists and create economic ripple effects worth more than 200 billion won a year.
This and many other projects are inspired by the success of a ropeway in Tongyeong City, also on the southern coast. Built in 2008, the famous ropeway offers a panoramic view of the enchanting scenery of Tongyeong Harbor and Hallyeo Maritime National Park.
Adding fuel to the boom, the National Park Committee approved in August a plan to build a new cable car line in Seoraksan National Park in Gangwon Province.
The government of Yangyang County plans to invest 46 billion won to construct a 3.5-kilometer-long cable line linking the Osaek area to one of the peaks near Daecheongbong, the highest peak of Mount Seoraksan, by 2017.
The county government expects the project would generate economic benefits of up to 150 billion won a year. This is why it applied for approval on its plan for the third time since 2011.
The Mount Seoraksan project is the first one to win approval from the National Park Committee since the National Park Act was revised in 2010 to ease restrictions on the construction of cable cars in national parks.
Taking their cue from Yangyang, four municipalities are scrambling for a similar projects in Jirisan National Park -- Sancheong and Hamyang of South Gyeongsang Province, Namwon in North Jeolla Province and Gurye of South Jeolla Province.
The main motivation for promoting cable car projects is that they help attract tourists and contribute to local economies. Proponents of cable cars also note that they can be built at a relatively low cost without causing much damage to the natural environment.
Yet the construction boom is cause for grave concern among environmentalists. They are particularly worried about the projects being promoted in national parks as they say cable cars could cause serious damage to the ecosystem.
Municipal governments that have already launched cable car projects need to promote them in a way that minimizes environmental damage. Those still in the planning stage need to be reminded that not all projects now in operation are profitable. They should think about whether there will be enough demand for their facilities when all the planned cable car projects go into operation.