New $18 billion city is planned for southwest

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New $18 billion city is planned for southwest

The Lee Myung-bak administration announced yesterday a master plan to invest 21 trillion won ($18 billion) to develop a world-class international conference, tourism and leisure city called “Ariul” in the Saemangeum reclamation site along the nation’s southwest coast.

The Saemangeum Development Committee under the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday announced the final development details for Ariul, which will occupy 23.8 percent of the 28,300 hectares (69,930 acres) of the reclaimed land in North Jeolla.

Of three preliminary urban designs presented last July, the choice was finally narrowed down to one ? a radial city plan ? yesterday.

“Initially, we had a plan to improve water quality of Saemangeum to be adequate for agricultural use, but the new plan is to improve the environment to allow tourism and leisure activities in the area,” the government press release said.

Some 2.99 trillion won, about 14 percent of the total budget, will be invested in improving water quality from 2011 to 2020.

According to the release, 13 trillion won will be spent for land development, while another 4.81 trillion won will be invested in infrastructure.

As a part of infrastructure, groundbreaking of a new port will take place at the end of 2011. Eight roads, including a beltway, will also be built.

The government is also reviewing a plan to link the new city with Jeonju via highway and with Gunsan through a railway.

A plan to use the nearby Gunsan Airport for international flights is also under consideration.

In an effort to promote the new city overseas, the government said it has decided to name the city “Ariul,” which may be easy for foreigners to pronounce. “Ari” is an ancient Korean word for water and “ul” means fence or base, the government said.

Last year, the government announced its decision to shift the development direction of the problem-plagued Saemangeum project.

The construction of the Saemangeum reclamation project began in 1991, targeting building a 33-kilometer (20.5-mile) embankment to form a tidal flat of 28,300 hectares and a reservoir of 11,800 hectares. But the fate of the project had been up in the air after fierce protests from environmentalists.

After more than four and a half years of court battles between the government and environmental groups, the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the government could continue the multitrillion-won project.

North Jeolla residents welcomed the new development master plan.

“Most of our proposals were accepted, and we are generally satisfied with it,” said North Jeolla Governor Kim Wan-joo. “The blue print is ready, so we should focus on raising funds to push the project forward.”

“In order to ease concerns about another possible delay to the project, development should be carried out speedily by effectively making investments,” said Lee Gyeong-ok, vice governor of the province. “To that end, the government must reflect the Saemangeum project budget in the country’s long-term financial plan.”

The North Jeolla Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the new Saemangeum plan, vowing the local business community’s support.

“We hope to see successful development of a world-class city to make North Jeolla an economic hub of Northeast Asia,” the chamber said in a statement.

By Ser Myo-ja []

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