Korean Air hotel plan is opposed by Seoul’s gov’t

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Korean Air hotel plan is opposed by Seoul’s gov’t

The Seoul city government announced yesterday it opposes Korean Air’s plan to build a seven-star hotel near Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul, contradicting the central government’s recent announcement that it was easing regulations on construction of hotels.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said the land should be used as a public space of some kind.

“The area is located near Gyeongbok Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village,” said a representative of the city office. “So we’d like to use the land in a way that contributes to the public interest because it’s surrounded by important landmarks.”

The Ministry of Strategy and Finance announced last month its intention to loosen restrictions on hotels being built in areas near schools. Seoul is suffering from a shortage of hotel rooms as the tourism industry booms.

A green light from the Seoul Metropolitan Government is required for the airline to go ahead with the massive project, which will also include a cultural complex.

Currently, companies are required to win approval from a committee under a district’s education office to build hotels within 200 meters (656 feet) of schools.

The 36,000-square-meter (8.9-square-acre) Korean Air site is located inside a 200-meter perimeter of two high schools: Duksung Girls’ High School and Pungmoon Girls’ High School.

The restriction is aimed at protecting an environment conducive to learning. The Finance Ministry said last month that unlike betting centers or motels, a high-end hotel is unlikely to harm the environment around a school.

With the growing number of foreign tourists, the government has sought to boost the number of hotel rooms. However, lack of available land, especially in Seoul, where there are more than 1,200 schools, has been an obstacle.

Korean Air purchased the land in 2008 from Samsung Life Insurance. It asked for approval from the Jungbu District Office of Education in 2010, but was rejected. KAL filed a lawsuit, but the court upheld the law.

KAL has been planning to invest 300 billion won ($278 million) in building the four-story hotel. A bill to reform the tourism promotion law, which includes relaxed rules on hotel buildings, has been stalled at the National Assembly.



BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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