City takes measures to keep Insa-dong as it is

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City takes measures to keep Insa-dong as it is

The Seoul city government said it has taken legal measures to prohibit cosmetic stores and massage parlors from opening additional businesses to preserve the cultural value of Insa-dong, central Seoul, which houses many antique shops and art galleries.

The municipal government said yesterday it will bring a revised ordinance before the Seoul Metropolitan Council by the end of the month that details a management plan for Insa-dong, which was designated as a culture preservation area in 2002, to protect Korea’s traditional culture.

The city government said the revised plan will prevent cosmetic shops, Chinese-style massage parlors and franchise coffee shops from opening additional stores in the region.

Daehangno, central Seoul, famous for street performances and concerts, is also designated as a protected area by the city, but was excluded from the plan because it is a commercial area.

According to the city government, there are a total of 11 cosmetic shops and three Chinese-style massage parlors on the streets of Insa-dong.

“There have been complaints that too many stores aiming to sell Korea’s popular cosmetic products have been spreading in the area recently,” a spokesman of the city government said.

“It might be a bit late, but we decided to protect Insa-dong.”

The city government has other plans to promote the area as well.

It plans to distribute a sticker for those stores that sell traditional cultural products so visitors can recognize that the products are made in Korea.

“Many tourists were disappointed when they found that the products or souvenirs they have purchased in Insa-dong were in fact cheap Chinese imitations,” Kim Hoon-gi, an official in the Culture Policy Division from the city government told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “We will operate a system that can verify that traditional cultural products being sold in Insa-dong are manufactured in Korea.”

Kim added that the city government has discussed with the owners of cosmetic and franchise coffee shops how to run their businesses in a way that can promote Insa-dong in a more traditional-culture friendly manner.

“We have requested they decorate their interiors in a more Korean style, and also suggested workers in the shops wear hanbok [Korean traditional costume],” he said.

The city government said it will try to have more available traditional markets in the area.

It said that it will support a maximum of 100 million won ($91,800) of deposit money when a person wants to open a traditional store such as an antique shop or art gallery.

By Kwon Sang-soo []
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