[Sponsored Report] Plan to evolve Soyang River Dam

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[Sponsored Report] Plan to evolve Soyang River Dam

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The pictures represent the changes Soyang River Dam has gone through over the last 40 years. From left to right: In 1973, Asia’s largest multipurpose dam at the time was created; The Water Museum at the Soyang River Dam; K-water is developing the dam into a tourist mecca. Provided by the company

Throughout its 40 year history, Soyang River Dam has been a witness to Korea’s unprecedented economic growth and industrialization. Rapid modernization in the 1960s required a stable water supply, creating the need for dam construction.

Serious discussions took off in 1965, and the Soyang River Dam Project was designated the main project in President Park Chung Hee’s second five-year economic development program that started in 1967. There was a change from the original plan to build a single-purpose dam, resulting in the construction of a dam for irrigation and flood control.

The Soyang River Dam Project, completed on Oct. 15, 1973, was one of three national projects during the 1960s to 1970s, the other two being the creation of the Gyeongbu Expressway and Line 1 of the Seoul Metro.

While the Soyang River Dam was originally designed as a gravity dam using concrete, plans were changed to build a rock-fill dam instead. The main reasons were that the domestic construction industry lacked the capacity to produce steel and cement, items required for building gravity dams, and that transportation costs for those materials were too high. On the other hand, clay, sand and stones, all materials for rock-fill dams, are easier to obtain. Rock-fill dams also stand stronger against external shocks.

During the six-and-a-half-year construction period, which was 2.6 times longer than that of the Gyeongbu Expressway, approximately 5 million people were put to work each year. The scale was unprecedented as almost everything from design plans to heavy equipment for construction, such as 32-ton dump trucks, vibrating compactors and excavators, were introduced to Korea for the first time.

As a result, Asia’s biggest and the world’s fourth-largest dam at the time was built, launching an era of water resource utilization. The dam’s water surface is as wide as 70 kilometers square (16,405 square feet), and the basin is 2,703 square kilometers.

Located northeast of Chuncheon, Gangwon, the Soyang River Dam served as the foundation of the Miracle on the Han River - the name given to Korea’s economic growth - and is still bringing tangible benefits to the Korean economy along with 15 other multipurpose dams in the country.

The dam has effectively procured water for industrial use and contributed to flood control in times of floods or drought. The multipurpose dam has the capacity to provide 45 percent of the water supply in the Seoul Metropolitan area, which is about 623 million cubic meters out of a total 1.39 billion cubic meters of water. The construction can also control 500 million cubic meters of floodwater, alleviating the damage to lives and property along the Han River during the wet summer season.

Another function of the dam is the production of nonpolluting hydroelectric power, with its facility capacity reaching 0.2 million kilowatts and an annual generation quantity of 353 gigawatts. When the hydroelectric power facility began operating in 1973, in the middle of the second oil shock, the Soyang River Dam supplied one third of the country’s total water power, offering a solution to the electric power shortage.

Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water) has been looking for ways to maximize and diversify the utility of the Soyang River Dam as the functions have been mostly restricted to economic development and flood control in the past. K-water has been particularly devoted to turning the dam into a tourist mecca by making use of the beautiful waterfront near the dam. In line with K-water’s “environment improvement project,” the Soyang River Dam now has a water museum and environment-friendly spaces. K-water will also renovate decrepit facilities and turn them into convenient resting spaces.

“K-water is committed to turning the 16 multipurpose dams, including the Soyang River Dam, into tourist attractions,” said director Kim Jong-hae of the Water Resource Division of K-water.

“Such businesses related to revitalizing the dam will help rediscover the cultural, tourist and leisure values of the dam, contributing to raising value of lives for the residents and boosting the local economy.”

A Ceremony to celebrate the 40 years upon completion of the Soyang River Dam will be held at the dam on Oct. 18. Around 400 people, including officials of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and local policy makers and residents, will be present at the ceremony.

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