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[Weekender] Skyscrapers altering skyline of Korea

With an unprecedented boom in construction of skyscrapers in South Korea, today’s tallest building in the country can never sit comfortably as candidates queue up to replace it.

The 305-meter, 68-story Posco Tower-Songdo was opened in 2011 in Songdo International City, as the world’ most expensive private real estate project. Located in the Incheon Free Economic Zone, the skyscraper was the nation’s tallest building, flaunting its imposing height. With an investment of 516 billion won ($413 million), it took eight years to complete.

Six years on, the landmark of Songdo is now dwarfed by the 555-meter, 123-story Lotte World Tower that opened in Seoul in April. The world’s fifth-tallest building is built with 50,000 metric tons of steel and 220,000 cubic meters of concrete, designed to withstand magnitude 9.0 earthquake and winds of 67 meters per second.

The Lotte World Tower, however, will have to make way for the 569-meter, 105-story Hyundai Global Business Center, that will be the nation’s tallest building in the nation by 2021. When completed, it will be 14 meters higher than Lotte’s high-rise. 

Hyundai bought a plot from Korea Electric Power Corporation in Samseong-dong, Seoul for whopping 10.5 trillion won in 2014 to achieve its long dream of building the mega complex in the center of the capital city. The skyscraper will host a hotel, concert hall, convention center and exhibition hall. An observatory will be located on 553 meters above the ground.
Bird's-eye view of Hyundai Global Business Center (Hyundai Motor)
Bird's-eye view of Hyundai Global Business Center (Hyundai Motor)

As of now, following the Lotte World Tower and Posco Tower-Songdo are the 300-meter Haeundae Doosan We’ve the Zenith and 292-meter Haeundae IPark Marina Tower 2, both of which were constructed in 2011. The 289-meter Busan International Finance Center that opened in 2014 comes in fifth.

Another high-rise building waiting in line is the 448-meter Cheongna City Tower, or Tower Infinity, to be built near Incheon Airport just outside Seoul by 2022. By then, the skyscraper will be the third-tallest building in Korea, following Hyundai Global Business Center and Lotte World Tower. Constructors hope for it to be known as the world’s first invisible tower, thanks to an invisibility illusion achieved with a light-emitting diode facade. The tower will be built primarily for leisure facilities.

“The skyscraper boom is expected to accelerate in Korea, where urbanization has reached 90 percent. Skyscrapers can create new space, attract visitors and improve the brand value of companies,” said Lee Kyung-soo, a director at the Korea Developer Association.

“However, challenges remain due to regulations and opposing views about spoiling the landscape, environmental impact and risks such as earthquakes,” he added.

By Shin Ji-hye (