Sejong homes not being built

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Sejong homes not being built


Korea Land & Housing Corporation constructs apartments in Sejong City, Yeongi County, South Chungcheong, for government officials who will move to the administrative capital in 2014. The state-run corporation is scheduled to build apartments for 6,250 families of officials by the end of 2012. By Kim Sung-tae

The political ping-pong match over the development of Sejong City into a new administrative capital for Korea has delayed the building of residences for civil servants, raising fears that the new mini-capital could start off as a kind of ghost town.

According to the government’s construction schedule, private builders should start constructing apartments for government officials within this year for completion by the end of 2012.

But the builders say they don’t think they can get much profit from the projects due to a recent fall in property prices in the area, and they aren’t sending in the construction cranes.

“Private builders still doubt the government will really go ahead with the development because it still hasn’t said construction will proceed as in the original plan,” Lee Sang-seon, an official of the committee to execute the Sejong City project said.

The original Sejong City plan, put forward by Roh Moo-hyun as a presidential election pledge in 2002, was to relocate the national government to the city in South Chungcheong. After he became president, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled against Roh’s plan, saying the country’s capital could not be moved, and he scaled it back to move many, but not all, government offices. That plan was passed into law in 2005.

President Lee Myung-bak decided to scale the plan down further to transform Sejong City into an industrial, science and education hub, but not a new mini-capital. After the ruling party suffered a big defeat in the June 2 local elections, in which the Sejong City development was a big issue, Lee abandoned his plan.

The protracted wrangling over the plan, which is supposed to relocate 11,000 government officials and 36 government offices, including nine ministries, to South Chungcheong by 2014, caused real estate prices in the city to drop, which led the builders to hesitate on construction.

Although the state-run Korea Land & Housing Corporation is building apartments, they can accommodate only 6,520 families, less than a half the estimated number of households, 23,567, that are supposed to move.

“The important thing for us is whether the property market in Sejong City will be revived in the near future,” said Cho Han-ju, an official for Hundai E&C, one of the private builders. “After we see how the market is in November, we’ll decide whether we’ll start construction of the residences or not.”

The government has raised about 22.5 trillion won ($20 billion) for the Sejong City project and spent about 6.3 trillion won through September.

By Kim Bang-hyun, Kim Hee-jin []
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