Seoul considers selling Jamsil land to Chinese buyers

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Seoul considers selling Jamsil land to Chinese buyers

The Seoul city government is considering selling land in the Jamsil Sports Complex area in southern Seoul and Magok Industrial Complex, Gangseo District, in southwestern Seoul to Chinese investors.

“We plan to sell some of the real estate owned by the city government in order to attract more Chinese investors to the capital,” Kim Jeong-ho, director of the Foreign Investment Promotion Division of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“We are considering selling off portions of land in the Sports Complex and land in the Magok and Munjeong-dong, Songpa District, eastern Seoul, where the city government previously planned to create a retail and distribution complex. As Chinese investors prefer owning real estate and making investments directly to leasing lands, we will advertise that those lands are for sale.”

The municipal government wants to sell off the land to eliminate its fiscal deficit and also wants to attract foreign investment to the places where it hasn’t been able to launch or continue development projects due to lack of finances.

The city government originally planned for the Jamsil Sport Complex area to be recreated to house conventions and tourist hotels.

It said the sports complex’s 400,000 square meters (98.8 acres) land in Songpa District, southern Seoul, which is considered some of the most sought after and expensive real estate in Seoul, is burdened by 30-year-old athletic facilities that are costly to maintain and manage, but do not generate adequate revenue.

The Jamsil Sports Complex currently includes a baseball stadium, where the Doosan Bears and LG Twins play, and the facilities used during the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

According to the city government’s facility management division, managing the Sports Complex generates about 5 to 10 billion won ($4.49 to $8.96 million) in debt per year.

But the plan has many obstacles. The development (construction) project in the area has been surrounded by a series of problems they should solve before proceeding.

When former President Lee Myung-bak was the mayor of Seoul, many plans for the area were announced by the city government, but none of them were realized.

“Since 2003, the city government has planned to build a convention center and tourist hotels in the sport complex area while it keeps the baseball and the main stadium (where the Seoul Olympics opening ceremony and track and field events were held in 1988),” Lee Jeh-won, director of the Urban Planning Division, told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“But after facing strong opposition from athletic circles and considering the national psyche, we couldn’t put the plan into action.”

“The city government must provide a specific development plan before they decide to sell off the areas to foreigners,” said Kim Yong-seok, member of the Seoul Metropolitan Council.

The current status for Magok and Munjeong industrial complexes is more suitable for the city government’s plan because SH Corporation, a state-run construction company, has provided a development plan and currently has several construction projects in progress.

“The city government’s plan to sell land to foreigners could be influenced by previous failures because one of Mayor Park Won-soon’s electoral commitments was to pay off 7 trillion won of about 20 trillion won of Seoul’s deficit.”

Mayor Park will visit Beijing and Shanghai from April 21-27 to attract Chinese investors.

By Yoo Seong-woon, Cho Han-dae [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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