The importance of Ariul

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The importance of Ariul

The government unveiled a final blueprint to develop one of the world’s largest plots of reclaimed land, located on the southwest coast.

Last week, the government said it will spend as much as 21 trillion won ($18.1 billion) by 2020 to create a hybrid city in the Saemangeum Embankment area in North Jeolla. The government finalized the plan after it first announced in 2008 that it would turn the reclamation site originally set out for farming into a new planned city for industrial and tourism activity.

Under the master plan, the northern tip will be reserved for an industrial complex while the southern corner will feature a futuristic municipality up to two-thirds the size of Seoul fed by new and green technologies and capable of hosting international conferences and tourism-related events.

North Jeolla residents welcomed the government’s new ambitious plan within the estuarine site, which easily could have turned into a wasteland that no farmers would be willing to cultivate. The government fully incorporated the wishes of North Jeolla for investment on improving the water quality in the area and creating an international air route.

The city has already received the name Ariul - befitting of a cosmopolitan water city. The action plan appears a bit too grandiose, but it has the support of residents and falls in line with the state project of developing the southwest coastline into a hub of East Asia.

But there is a lot of work to be done before this project can live up to its ambitious design. The trickiest part will be gathering up the 21 trillion won in funding for the project, the bulk of which officials say will come from the private sector. If the government contributes funds from its coffers, other regions - already sensitive to the issue because of the Sejong City project - would likely hit the roof.

Despite the funding question, we sincerely hope the government diligently pushes ahead with the action plan and succeeds with the Saemangeum project. The country has devoted 19 years to filling the world’s largest estuary amid contentious disputes. We cannot put all those years of hard work in the trash. We must make the project a success, but at the same time we must keep in mind its bitter lesson.

We should no longer give into or tolerate reckless campaign promises like building a new administrative city. The Saemangeum Embankment is another live example of how indiscreet extravagant campaign promises can squander national resources and place a burden on the country for many years.
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