Plan for garden under bridge draws criticism

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Plan for garden under bridge draws criticism

The Seoul city government, which some consider design-obsessed, is under fire for its plans to build a lavish garden beneath a bridge that very few people visit.

The Seodaemun and Jung district offices launched a 475 million won ($399,898) joint project in April to refurbish an area under Seosomun Bridge and build a 1000 square-meter (1,196 square yards) granite garden with 7,500 small trees. The garden is set to be completed by the end of the month. Seosomun Bridge is between JoongAng Ilbo headquarters and the Fraser Place residence complex in central Seoul.

The project has been criticized by some Seosomun-area residents, who say that the city government is using its budget lavishly while other metropolitan governments are grappling with cash shortages that have forced them to downsize or halt ongoing construction projects.

“It’s a waste of money,” said company worker Ko Seok-ho. “I wonder whether Seoul’s financial status is strong enough to have an extreme beautification makeover on a secluded spot under a bridge.”

As criticism has grown, the Seodaemun and Jung district offices explained that the project was launched at the request of residents because the bridge is regarded as a place for homeless people.

“There is a free soup kitchen near the Seosomun Bridge and homeless people regularly flock beneath the bridge to sleep there,” said Cho Chun-su, an official with the Seodaemun District Office. “Residents and restaurant owners in the area made clear to us that they suffer from noise and bad smells that hurts restaurant business.”

By Park Tae-hee, Kim Mi-ju []
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