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Colonial-era apartment block to be torn down

Chungjeong Apartment in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (Yonhap)
Chungjeong Apartment in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (Yonhap)

Chungjeong Apartment, one of the oldest apartment buildings in South Korea, will be torn down, as part of plans for redevelopment in central Seoul, the Seoul city government said Thursday.

The city has looked to redevelop the area for about 40 years, but projects have been put off because of disputes over compensation.

With the fate of the building decided, delayed plans for the redevelopment area, which includes part of Seodaemun-gu and Jung-gu, are expected to proceed.

The five-story building, painted green and located right next to the sidewalk in Chungjeong-ro, was built in 1937, during Japanese colonial rule in South Korea, while some other records show the apartment building was built in 1932. It has been recorded as being the first concrete-steel apartment building in the country.

The apartment building was originally called Toyota Apartment, named after the constructor‘s name. During the Korean War, UN forces temporarily used the building, and it was returned to the South Korean government after the war.

In the 1970s, Bank of Seoul, now Seoul Bank, took ownership of the building and sold it in lots after renaming it Yurim Apartment. The block’s name was later changed to Chungjeong Apartment.

Due to the building’s historical significance, the Seoul city government initially tried to designate the building as a cultural heritage site, but the government failed to do so, partly due to issues of ownership.

It was by Park Won-soon‘s term, the Seoul city government decided to preserve the building by repurposing it as a cultural space. The city government then said it would push ahead with the delayed redevelopment plans for the area while preserving the building.

But, under Oh Se-hoon‘s new mayorship, the Seoul city government has decided to demolish the building.

The city government noted its latest decision was based on opinions from the residents, as well as safety reasons. The city government also said it would install a structure that could show records of the historic building.

But Chungjeonggak, another old building in the redevelopment zone, will be preserved, according to the Seoul city government’s redevelopment plan for the region.

The Seoul city government said Chungjeonggak, a western style house thought to have been constructed in the 1910s, has been well maintained, and the cultural properties committee of Seoul approved the need to preserve the building.

Meanwhile, along with the redevelopment scheme for the region nearby Chungjeong Apartment, the Seoul city government would connect Chungjeong-ro with Seosomun-ro, which would allow traffic to flow better in the future.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)
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