Fireworks site disturbs neighbors

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Fireworks site disturbs neighbors

In northeast Seoul stands a warehouse, just 60 meters (197 feet) away from the planned site for Sinnae Park at the foot of Mount Bongha, which is surrounded by apartments, a school, and a gym. The two-meter warehouse door, surrounded by a barbed wire fence, has a “Do not enter” sign prominently displayed. Another sign reads: “Anyone who plays with fire or smokes cigarettes will be heavily penalized.” A lone security guard stands out front making sure no one flicks a cigarette butt at the building.

That’s because the Samseong Fireworks warehouse has 10 tons of explosives inside. It’s the only explosives warehouse in the capital city, and its neighbors are both scared and angry.

“If children play with fireworks for fun and accidently cause the building to explode, or if a delinquent deliberately causes an accident, then it will harm many people,” Kim Dong-seung, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said. “In city development, the safety of things being built in an area needs to be taken into consideration.”

The warehouse was originally built in September 1971, when the area was a 15,000-square-meter (3.7 acres) greenbelt zone. But since then, the Sinnae-dong area has been filled with apartment complexes, while Geumseong Elementary School was built 220 meters away. Only 117 meters away is a gymnasium that 250 people use daily, while nearby Mount Bongha is visited by 10,000 people daily.

The warehouse initially held 29 tons of fireworks, but the amount is now around 10 tons. Neighbors found out what was being stored inside the unmarked building only in 2008.

Residents in the area held a meeting in March to express their worries about the warehouse and the trucks transporting the explosives in and out of the building. Residents were also worried about the effect the warehouse will have on local real estate prices.

The residents formed a body to push for the relocation of the fireworks warehouse out of their neighborhood.

Lim Seong-su, who heads the group, said, “In 1977, 40 tons of fireworks exploded in Iri [now Iksan], North Jeolla, killing 59 people and injuring 1,350. I cannot sleep soundly since I found out there are 10 tons of explosives in my neighorhood. Who can guarantee that there will not be an explosion like in Iri?”

The Jungnang District Office deposited 2.5 billion won ($2.1 million) in 2009 and 2 billion won in 2010 to a court to compensate Samseong Fireworks to relocate the warehouse. But Samseong has not taken out the funds and claims the compensation is not sufficient and filed a lawsuit to get more money.


By Park Tae-hee [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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