What is the price of beauty?

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What is the price of beauty?

If something looks more spacious and brilliant than it should, there is probably a reason for suspicion.

The new Seongnam City Hall in Gyeonggi is a prime example. The building, which is scheduled to open Nov. 18, has continued to attract a steady stream of criticism for wasting taxpayer money. A closer look at the numbers tells us all we need to know.

Seongnam City Hall is estimated to have cost over 320 billion won ($270 million). It is 74,000 square meters (797,000 square feet) in size and will house over 700 public officials. In comparison, the new city hall building in Seoul is expected to cost 228.8 billion won. Its 90,000 square meters will house more than 2,000 public officials. It would be an understatement to say the Seongnam building is excessive.

The city of Seongnam earned strong criticism for the building during the parliamentary inspection of the administration last year. In its defense the city claims the building was built with the next 50 to 100 years in mind, however there have been few people willing to say that a building with a luxurious lobby decorated with marble floors and a three-story escalator is appropriate for use in a city hall.

When City Council members of the Grand National Party passed the bill related to the construction of the Seongnam City Hall building in 2006 without reaching consensus, members of the Democratic Party staged a sit-in that lasted 50 days. Even today, there are 12 Democratic Party members still refusing to move into offices in the new building.

There have been numerous cases in which local governments have received criticism for building lavish buildings. It is difficult to understand why the city of Seongnam pushed ahead with its original plan despite the concerns about the building. The city says it is aiming to make “Seongnam the best city, full of dreams and happiness.” But building the best building does not necessarily mean one is building the best city.

No matter how high the income levels of the citizens of the Bundang District in Seongnam may become, there are still plenty of people who are unable to afford a monthly rent of 100,000 won. Can Seongnam’s magnificent new building help these citizens? Seongnam can only realize its goal of becoming the “best” city when taxpayer money is spent in an appropriate manner for the convenience and welfare of all of its citizens, rather than creating a building that is embellished with decorative features.

Although the city’s haughty attitude does not sit well with many people, the building is already built. Now, we urge the city of Seongnam to provide administrative services that will be worthy of its gorgeous new building.
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