중앙데일리

When high-rise buildings block the sun, they create problems for people.

Lack of sunlight in a person’s home can reduce the property value and affect an individual’s happiness, health and mood.

Nov 13,2007
The right to enjoy sunshine is a hot issue as high-rise buildings sprout up across the country. [JoongAng Ilbo]
As high-rise apartment buildings increasingly dominate Korea’s landscape, a growing number of residents and construction companies are embroiled in legal battles over “the right to enjoy sunshine.”
Residents argue that they lose their right to enjoy sunshine due to newly built high-rise buildings that block sun beams from entering the windows of their homes.
Last month, the Seoul Central District Court ordered Samsung Corporation to pay a total of 4.29 billion won ($4.72 million) to 139 households who live in the Daewoo Purgio Apartment in Banpo, southern Seoul.
The residents filed a suit seeking a court injunction against the construction company, which started building a complex of 32-story apartment buildings near the residents’ homes. The residents argued that the new apartment buildings would almost completely block their sunlight.
According to the ruling, the residents would receive compensation ranging from 10 million won to 42 million won per household.
Residents of other apartment complexes in Banpo adjacent to the new apartment complex under construction have also been preparing to file a similar suit.
Article 35 of the South Korean Constitution stipulates, “All people have the right to live in a healthy and comfortable environment, and the country and the people should try to protect the environment.”
According to the article, a person’s right to a good environment should be protected.
Experts say that people’s right to the environment includes the right to enjoy sufficient sunshine to maintain physical or mental health or growth.
Under current law, however, there is no specific provision to govern the right to enjoy sunshine.
According to the Supreme Court’s rulings, if a person cannot be exposed to sunshine for more than four hours between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or for two consecutive hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the winter solstice, or the shortest day of the year, that person’s right to sunshine is considered to be infringed upon.
“Scholars consider the right to sunshine as the right to the environment, but from a legal perspective, the right is interpreted as a private property right that cannot be infringed upon by others,” said Lee Seung-tae, a lawyer who specializes in legal disputes over the right to sunshine.
“If a person’s right to sunshine is infringed upon, we think his or her right to property is damaged.”
When a person seeks compensation for the infringement of his right to sunshine, the loss of property value caused by the loss of sunlight is included when calculating the desired compensation.
Experts say the right to sunshine should be protected as matters of protection of private property and also the protection of a person’s health.
“Sunlight suppresses the release of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, and helps to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle and influences our biological clocks,” said Lee Min-soo, a professor of neuropsychiatry at Korea University Anam Hospital.
The level of melatonin secretion is greatly influenced by sunlight. Just as darkness triggers the release of melatonin, sunlight suppresses it.
As more melatonin travels throughout the blood, the body starts getting more tired, and as the level of melatonin decreases, the body becomes lively.
Sunshine also affects a person’s mood. “Sunshine stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the central nervous system and makes a person feel fresh,” said Yoo Jun-hyeon, a professor at the medical school of Sungkyunkwan University. “Sunlight is a natural cure for depression.”
In addition, sunshine is a source of vitamin D, as ultraviolet rays from sunlight trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
Vitamin D maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis.
Other countries deal with the issue in other ways.
Japan is actively protecting the right by regulating shadows on a building created by an adjacent building.
But in European countries or the United States, the issue has not received much attention because experts say the countries have large territories and thus have less chance of such disputes arising.
“The disputes result from the country’s densely populated land and people’s preference for high-rise apartments,” said Kang Won-il, a lawyer at the Jisung Law Office.
Thus, experts claim that high-rise buildings should be more meticulously planned, and construction companies should pay more attention to the right to sunshine as they build.


By Jang Wook JoongAng Ilbo [soejung@joongang.co.kr]



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