Towering doubts

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Towering doubts

The government finally approved on Monday the construction of the second Lotte World. Because of safety concerns, it has taken 15 years to decide whether or not to green-light the 112-story skyscraper.

Two years ago the Defense Ministry said the skyscraper would pose a safety risk to airplanes landing and departing from a runway at nearby Seongnam Air Base, but the ministry has now changed its mind.

The decision came as Lotte promised and agreed to shoulder the entire cost of changing the runway direction. The company is slated to launch a groundbreaking ceremony as early as next February and complete the project in five years.

However, there is still strong opposition to the planned tower in political circles, among retired senior Air Force officers and civic groups.

Rumors abound that President Lee Myung-bak pressed the defense ministry to change its position. In addition, there is talk that the angle of the new runway might not be safe.

Some critics have also raised the issue of national security and insinuated that there could even be some kind of collusion between the government and business.

That said, there are also many in favor of having a skyscraper in Seoul because of the economic benefits.

We cannot totally throw out our concerns about the government’s decision to let the building go ahead. We believe the No. 1 priority is security. Seongnam Air Base is not a commercial airport like Gimpo or Incheon airports. The air base is used either for the president when leaving on state visits or for VIPs from other countries who are visiting Korea.

Military, civilian cargo planes and many other large aircraft also land there. What’s more, reconnaissance craft use the runway for military operations.

It is unimaginable to think that planes using the runway could be endangered because of a skyscraper.

Admittedly, the government has also announced preconditions for strengthening safety measures for aircraft as part of the decision. But it is uncertain whether those prerequisites will completely satisfy the safety of airplanes. It is impossible not to think back to the horrors of the 9/11 tragedy in 2001 when planes rammed into buildings.

We have no intention to persistently stand against the decision to build the skyscraper. However, it is crucial for the government to come up with reliable alternatives that could give confidence to the people.

We can’t help but have doubts after the Defense Ministry changed its stance on the basis of the angle of the runway undergoing a slight change.

At least we cannot let criticism continue to mount that the examination of safety matters was insufficient.

We ask the government to review the safety problem once again. Safety is the top priority.
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