Sinchon street plan leaves vendors out in the cold

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Sinchon street plan leaves vendors out in the cold

A 66-year-old street vendor surnamed Lee has been selling tteokbokki (spicy rice cake) and sundae (Korean blood sausage) for 20 years on a street in Sinchon, western Seoul, near Yonsei University.

It has not been a lucrative business for Lee, but it has allowed Lee to survive day to day.

When the cold weather eases up, street vendors worry because less people want to eat those spicy and hot snacks than in the fall and winter.

But recently Lee has another worry. She was informed last year that the Seoul city government has decided to force her and dozens of other vendors to relocate as part of its project to improve the overcrowded streets of Sinchon.

“Since I was informed of the street improvement plan, I wasn’t able to sleep well because I’m about to be evicted from the area,” Lee said with a sigh. “I hope I can stay at the place where I have been working for a long time.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced in August last year that they will renovate a 550-meter (600-yard) section of the street between the main gate of Yonsei University and the major Sinchon Rotary as part of their plan to make Seoul a more pedestrian-friendly city.

The municipal government said it will reduce the four-lane road to two lanes and will only allow intracity buses, bicycles and ambulances to use the road during the day time.

Taxis will be allowed access to the area after dark.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the second half of the year.

“About 36 street vendors will be forced to leave this place because we are not going to allow them to conduct business on the sidewalk,” a spokesman of the Seodaemun District Office said.

“We will also clean up some old equipment in the area.”

The city government recommends those vendors move to the Changcheon Children Park near the Hyundai Department Store and to the two underpasses in front of Yonsei University.

“The places that the Seodaemun office has recommended to us aren’t big enough for all of us and aren’t good for business,” said a street vendor surnamed Ahn, 50.

“The Seodaemun office told us that they are still discussing the problem with vendors,” a spokesman of the Seoul city government said. “We will mediate the dispute if they can’t come to an agreement.”

The plan for the Sinchon area will likely impact 10 other regions including Jongno, central Seoul, Hongdae, western Seoul and Sillim-dong, southern Seoul, where the city government has planned to operate similar projects.

By Kang Na-hyun []
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