[Letters] Should we let the project drift away?The U-City, or Ubiquitous City, is the new city concept of building an urban space incorporating the latest information technology and communications infrastructure with the foundation of the city to provide various information immediately to citizens. After the central government, local autonomous government bodies, research institutes, construction and information technology companies have worked hard for the last 10 years to build the U-City, the first U-City in Korea was constructed and opened at Dongtan New Town in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi.
According to 2009 data by the National Information Society Agency, 38 U-City projects are in progress, and 48 additional cities are in the planning. Construction of U-Cities is expected to spread around the country.
However, the seemingly cruising U-City project is in a crisis that will make all the efforts so far come to nothing. After successfully launching the first U-City in Dongtan, Hwaseong City planned a second U-City.
However, LH Corporation, the contractor of the project, unilaterally notified that it will discontinue the U-City project in the region as of the end of November.
In addition, LH Corporation has made similar notices to all municipal authorities pursuing U-City projects.
LH Corporation argues that it has to suspend the U-City contracts because of an audit result from the Board of Audit and Inspection, aggravating the corporation’s finances. The BAI pointed out the undesirable practice of raising housing prices with a project lacking legal ground and passing on the burden to the tenants. But the U-City project has clear legal grounds, and costs 0.5 percent of the total expense for the construction and does not have substantial impact of the sale price.
Suspension of the U-City project can lead to various problems. The first is the decrease in the quality of life for urban citizens due to the lack of urban infrastructure. If the new cities cannot provide services that have already become commonplace because of a lack of infrastructure, the tenants will feel relatively deprived.
Secondly, once a project is completed and people start to move in, adding U-City-related features in the infrastructure will require redundant construction and additional resources.
Thirdly, if a town that fails to satisfy the expectations of urbanites, the newly built apartment units will not be sold, and LH Corporation will struggle even more from financial constraints.
In order to productively collaborate with the U-City project promoted by the Ministry of Land, Transportation and Maritime Affairs, many local autonomous bodies installed a dedicated department and drafted a construction plan.
However, LH Corporation unilaterally announced the suspension of construction, and all the U-City projects around the country are on halt at the moment. The government needs to make efforts to normalize the U-City project. We should not neglect and let U-City fall through.
Jo Yeong-im, professor of computer science at Suwon University