|A petition posted on the Cheong Wa Dae website, calling for stopping construction of apartment complexes near a 17th-century royal tomb, has garnered more than 112,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. Screenshot from Cheong Wa Dae website|
Possibility of demolition alarms owners of units in new buildings
By Jun Ji-hye
Voices are being raised over the construction of three apartment complexes located near a royal tomb dating back to the 17th century, with critics saying that the construction will seriously harm the value of the tomb as a cultural asset.
A petition posted on the Cheong Wa Dae website called for demolition of the buildings under construction, which are scheduled to be completed next year. It said the construction was pushed forward without due process ― such as seeking approval from the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) ― although the buildings are being built near the Joseon-era royal tomb that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
The site of the apartment complexes is within Geomdan New Town in northern Incheon, and is close to Jangneung Royal Tomb in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province. The tomb is for Prince Jeongwon (1580-1619), also known as Wonjong, and his wife Queen Inheon, who are the parents of King Injo, the 16th king of Joseon.
Since being posted on Sept. 17, the petition has already garnered more than 112,000 signatures as of 1 p.m. Thursday.
"The apartment complexes in question disrupt the landscape of the royal tomb and nearby Mount Gyeyang, seriously harming the value of the tomb as a cultural heritage site," the petitioner wrote. "The complexes should be demolished as their construction, which skipped the approval process, is illegal. If authorities let the construction go ahead and do not hold local governments or construction companies responsible, it will set a bad precedent for handling cultural heritage sites."
|Site for Geomdan new town in Incheon / Korea Times file|
The CHA already filed its own police complaint on Sept. 6, against three construction companies that have been building the complexes in Geomdan New Town for violating the Cultural Properties Protection Law.
The CHA said the three firms had not gone through its preliminary procedures required for a company seeking to build a structure with a height of more than 20 meters within a 500-meter radius of a cultural heritage site.
The CHA also ordered the companies to stop construction on 19 buildings of around 20 stories out of a total 44 buildings in the complexes that are to offer new residential apartments to 3,400 households, saying the 19 buildings are within a 500-meter radius of the royal tomb.
"Courts will make a final decision in accordance with the law as the royal tomb is property of the people," a CHA official said.
The construction companies said they have been falsely accused, as when they purchased the land in 2014, its previous owner, the Incheon Housing and City Development Corp. (iH), had already earned approval from Gimpo City for the housing development projects.
They also said they began construction after undergoing review by Incheon's Seo District Office in 2019.
Owners of units in the apartments under construction, who have been anticipating the completion of the project by next June, are raising concerns over the worst-case scenario that the buildings, which are in the final stage of construction, could be marked for demolition.
Even if the complexes are not demolished, apartment owners are expected to suffer financial losses due to construction delays and possible design changes.
"Innocent people like us are suffering from the CHA's order on suspension of construction," a person who is planning to move into one of the complexes wrote on the CHA website. "I wonder whether the CHA will compensate us for our possible financial losses and many other problems that will be caused if we are unable to move in on time. Construction should resume."