Save the greenbelt

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Save the greenbelt

It seems the government is keen to push ahead with plans for supplying public housing by lifting greenbelts surrounding Seoul. President Lee Myung-bak on Wednesday said that a large supply of housing will be provided near the capital even if the government has to dismantle the greenbelt.

Yim Tae-hee, policy chief of the ruling Grand National Party, said the greenbelt areas near the capital that are not green should be used for construction. Yim cited the area between Seoul and the new towns in the metropolitan region as an example.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is thought to be including the greenbelt for supplying housing in large numbers in its plan, scheduled to be announced on Sept. 19.

We agree with the president’s housing policy of increasing the supply of housing near the capital where demand is concentrated.

However, increasing housing supply near the capital and supplying large numbers of building sites by lifting the greenbelt are entirely different stories.

Energizing reconstruction and redevelopment, as the president mentioned, should come first as a means of increasing housing supply near the capital. Redeveloping areas that are deteriorating within the city and redeveloping buildings that are outdated should increase the supply of housing. With reconstruction and redevelopment, the housing supply can increase without harming the greenery.

Of course, it will be difficult to increase public housing just by reconstruction and redevelopment of the inner city where real estate prices are high. But lifting the greenbelt is a jump in logic.

Furthermore, the idea of turning the greenbelt between Seoul and the new towns into apartment complexes comes from development fundamentalism. It also goes against the purpose of maintaining the greenbelt.

There is still a way of building public housing by lifting the greenbelt. However, already 98 square kilometers (37.8 square miles) of the total 124 square kilometers of greenbelt that is to be lifted by 2020 has already been lifted. That means there are only 26 square kilometers of greenbelt that are still intact. It may be fine to increase the supply of building sites within this range but it would be distressing if we lost these 26 square kilometers as well.

The issue of lifting the greenbelt should be discussed more carefully, not just as part of the housing problem.

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