Floating islands hold grand opening

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Floating islands hold grand opening

The artificial floating islands in Seoul, located at the southern end of Banpo Bridge, had their grand opening yesterday with the new all-encompassing name Some Sevit three years after construction was completed.

The multi-purpose structure is expected to serve as a new cultural complex with a convention center, restaurants, a cafe, a gallery and a theater. It was renamed Some Sevit because the Korean word seom, meaning “island,” is pronounced similarly to the English word “some,” with sevit meaning “three lights,” a reference to the three small islands that comprise it. In Korean, se means “three,” while vit means “light.”

“Three beautiful flowers blossomed today on the Han River after a long period of suffering,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said during the opening ceremony, which was attended by politicians, government officials and hundreds of visitors.

“The Seoul government will give its full support to make it a public place and cultural rest area for the city’s 10 million citizens, as well as a world-famous landmark that will attract foreign visitors.”

The construction of the complex, promoted by former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, was finished in September 2011, though the official opening was delayed when safety and operational issues were raised following Park’s inauguration in October that year.

The complex was originally supposed to be managed by a private operator for 30 years and then donated to the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

But the constructor, Floating Island, had difficulty finding an operator who was willing to pay the 1 billion won ($939,300) in annual rent, which further delayed the islands’ grand opening.

The city government and Floating Island’s major shareholder, Hyosung, eventually came to an agreement, however, deciding to let Hyosung directly operate the complex.

The complex consists of three small inter-connected islands.

Some Gavit, the biggest building in the complex that opened early in May, features a convention hall, a cafe and a restaurant, and will serve as multipurpose cultural space. Ga comes from the Korean character meaning “beautiful.”

Some Chavit, which opened in July, is a multipurpose open space for performances and festivals. Cha originates from the Korean character that means “gloss.”

The newly opened Some Solvit, has a gallery and will be used as a support facility for water sports. Sol is from the Korean character that means “head.”

The complex yesterday was crowded with visitors who gathered to see the city’s newest landmark.

“I felt sorry for Some Sevit whenever I saw it crossing the Banpo Bridge,” Lee Ju-seong, a 35-year-old who lives in Seocho District, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“But now I’m glad [that it has opened], and I hope it will be a landmark of the city.”

“I have lived in Seoul for over 50 years and I’m happy that the city and the river are becoming more and more beautiful,” added Kim Hae-suk, a 77-year-old visitor.

Hyosung, meanwhile, said it expects the islands will serve the public good.

“The island [complex] is particularly meaningful because the idea of building it came from citizens who wanted to enjoy the Han River and relax,” said Hyosung Vice Chairman Lee Sang-woon.

“We will also do our best to make the complex a place that will bring happiness to its visitors.”

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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