Massive Busan park forms one acre at a time
Professor Kim Seung-hwan likens his vision to Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London. However, given the density of Busan, he has selected Dunchi Island, separated from the city by a range of hills, as the site for his “one million pyeong park.”
So far, the professor and his followers have managed to secure just a few acres of the 816-acre site. However, they won a major victory on Nov. 11, when the Busan city government agreed to assist in the effort.
Dunchi Island, bounded by the West Nakdong River, is close to Gimhae Airport and the Buma expressway making it an ideal place for a large park.
Mr. Kim visits the site whenever he has time. For the past six years he has worked on the park, which he wants to pass on to the next generation.
“Busan has a population of 4 million, but lacks a park that symbolizes the city, much less a flat-land park for young adults,” said Mr. Kim. “So I came up with the idea of citizens forming a large park.”
In the beginning, there were skeptics who said he was pursuing a wild dream or an illusion.
But Mr. Kim single-handedly launched a petition that has collected over 1 million signatures so far. He has also received 550 million won ($532,000) in donations from over 3,500 people. Donors to his cause range from elementary school students to elderly people.
In May 2001, he formed a civic group to create the 1-million-pyeong park, and became the director of the association. The civic group borrowed 770 million won ($744,000) and used it to buy 8 acres of land.
After the land purchases, Mr. Kim used a small part of the area to form a natural habitat in order to show the public what a park could look like in the future. Other parts of the land are still used as rice paddies.
On November 11, the civic group and Busan city signed a memorandum to build Busan into a city of beautiful parks. The civic group donated 6.5 acres of the purchased land to the city. The city will buy another 5.7 acres of land nearby and embark on the project next year.
“It is unprecedented for citizens to acquire land and donate it to the government,” said Mr. Kim. “Although the size of the donated land accounts for just one hundredth of the park we want to build, it is a first step”
Mr. Kim plans to purchase more land little by little over the next 20 years. These days, Mr. Kim visits large restaurants, hospitals and businesses to ask for 0.1 percent of their sales as a contribution to the project.
Moved by his efforts, three businesses, five restaurants and two hospitals agreed to make donations.
“I will try harder with an attitude that I will make small moves for each step,” Mr. Kim said.
by Kim Kwan-jong