Bangudae dam’s approval is postponed again

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Bangudae dam’s approval is postponed again

The fate of the endangered 8,000-year-old Bangudae rock art in Ulsan, in the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula, once again hangs in the balance.

The Committee on Cultural Heritage of the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) concluded yesterday that it would postpone granting approval on an envisioned movable, transparent dam that would be placed in front the prehistoric engravings.

The Bangudae Petroglyphs, which feature carvings of about 300 sea creatures and other animals, have been making headlines for a decade, as they spend 140 days a year submerged because of policies put in place after the construction of the Sayeon Dam in the 1960s.

But the prolonged bickering appeared to have reached an end as the CHA and the city of Ulsan finally agreed in June to build a movable dam in front the prehistoric engravings, thanks to the mediation of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Kim Dong-wook, chairman of the committee, told reporters yesterday that the committee has asked the city of Ulsan to “submit detailed plans on how to make the dam a nonpermanent structure, and to verify in advance its safety and performance.”

He added that the members of the committee largely disapprove of the dam being a permanent structure. If the city of Ulsan comes up with the plans and makes necessary revisions, he said, the group will meet again.

Originally, CHA wanted to lower the water levels to save the rock art, but the city of Ulsan claimed that lowering water levels would inevitably decrease water supply in the region. The idea of a movable dam was proposed as a compromise.

Under the compromise, the movable dam - measuring 40 meters wide (131 feet wide) and 16 meters high - would be set in place by October. But when dinosaur footprints dating back to the Cretaceous period were discovered near the Bangudae Petroglyphs in October 2013, officials envisioned the dam to be wider at 55 meters.

“We will review the plan scientifically and gather opinions and decide [whether or not to go ahead with the envisioned dam],” Rha Sun-hwa, the newly appointed chief of the CHA, said at a press conference on Jan. 9. “However, presently, it is also true there is no better plan that could replace the dam [that all relevant parties can agree upon].”


BY KIM HYUNG-EUN [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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