The Korea Herald


[KH Explains] Hyundai Motor’s plan for new landmark keeps hitting bumps

After decade-long talks, carmaker, city still at loggerheads over height of new Gangnam skyscrapers

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : May 13, 2024 - 15:42

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A projected image of Hyundai Motor Group's initial plan to build a new headquarters featuring a 105-story building in southern Seoul. (Hyundai Motor Group) A projected image of Hyundai Motor Group's initial plan to build a new headquarters featuring a 105-story building in southern Seoul. (Hyundai Motor Group)

Hyundai Motor Group’s plan to build a new headquarters called Global Business Center, or GBC, as a landmark in southern Seoul still faces bumps after having already undergone decade-long obstacles as it continues struggling with the Soul Metropolitan Government to find common ground on height.

The dispute was recently reignited when it was reported that the Seoul Metropolitan Government intended to reject Hyundai Motor’s new plan to build two 55-floor main buildings instead of the earlier proposal of one 105-floor skyscraper.

The auto giant had revised its original blueprint and submitted the new proposal to Seoul city officials in February. However, the city government has reportedly demanded that a new plan required a fresh round of negotiations.

Industry watchers urge prompt resolution for the carmaker's delayed landmark project, saying the lucrative empty land in southern Seoul has been wasting its geological value over the last ten years.

Contradicting claims

Unlike earlier media reports, the Balanced Development headquarters at the city government office said that Seoul city has not officially refused the automaker’s 55-story building proposal.

“The original plan to build a 105-story building was set in 2016,” said an official at the Balanced Development headquarters.

“That was done through pre-negotiations. It is not like building an ordinary villa where you can report your plans and just begin construction. As (Hyundai Motor’s GBC plan) covers a large area and has huge impacts, Seoul city and Hyundai Motor had held discussions for a long time regarding construction plans and building structures.”

The official added that Seoul city has sent out its official notice asking Hyundai Motor to talk about the revised plan together as the location and impact of GBC have public value.

On the other hand, Hyundai Motor said it has received no official notifications from the city government in terms of its updated proposal for GBC.

“If Seoul city rejects (our suggestion), we will engage in further negotiations with city officials again,” said a Hyundai Motor official.

Asked about Hyundai Motor’s nonchalant stance on the surface, the city official expressed frustration.

“Frankly speaking, the 105-story building plan was consulted and ready to go so (Hyundai Motor) could go ahead with that plan,” said the official.

“We are not the ones asking for the change. But (Hyundai Motor) cannot just proceed with the changed proposal alone.”

Hyundai’s delayed vision

In 2014, Hyundai Motor announced its plan to build a new 105-story building that would serve as its new headquarters and a grand landmark of the capital city after purchasing the Samseong-dong land formerly owned by Korea Electric Power Corp. at the price of 10.55 trillion won ($7.69 billion).

The original vision was to break ground in 2016, but it was pushed back a few times due to a series of government screenings.

Hyundai Motor said in March this year that if its revised proposal to build two 55-story buildings and four lower buildings gets the green light from the city by the second half of next year, about 4.6 trillion won will be invested in the GBC project through 2026 and it will bring 9,200 new employees.

The auto giant pointed out that the saved cost from the revised plan to lower the skyscraper will be used to develop a futuristic landmark, apply new carbon-reducing technologies and graft state-of-the-art mobility technologies such as urban air mobility and robotics onto the new site.

“Think about how many people including foreigners visit COEX, which is just across the street from (the site of GBC),” said an urban engineering professor who wished to remain anonymous.

“That land has been unused for the last ten years. Delaying this project would not only keep causing economic losses but also miss out on chances to offer another (financial and cultural complex) in Seoul.”

The Korean Urban Management Association estimated that the GBC project will create numerous economic benefits such as sparking 265 trillion worth of production, the employment of 1.22 million people and 1.5 trillion won worth of increased taxes.