Seoul is planning to create an underground city at Gwanghwamun

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The Seoul Metropolitan Government is to expand Gwanghwamun Square 3.7-fold, create an underground passage connecting major spots in central Seoul and make the area a public transport hub, according to a plan to transform the square unveiled Monday. 

Iconic statues of King Sejong the Great and Adm. Yi Sun-sin at Gwanghwamun Square will be relocated in order to secure an expansive view of Bugaksan and Gyeongbokgung, the palace at the north of the square, according to the “Deep Surface” restructuring plan.

The blueprint focuses on restoring historic meaning to the area by re-creating Yukjo Street, the main street of old Seoul, and reducing the lanes of traffic running through from the current 10, as part of efforts to make it more pedestrian-friendly, according to the municipality.

The blueprint by a team of South Korean construction design firms was chosen by a team of seven judges, comprising five South Korean experts and two foreign architects. Seventy teams from 17 countries entered the competition after the municipality laid out a plan to restructure the square in April.

According to the blueprint, the square will be expanded westward toward the Sejong Center of Performing Arts, with cafes, small parks and fountains to be built. The current 10-lane boulevard on either side of the square will be pushed eastward and reduced to a six-lane road.
The statues, which slightly limit the view of Gyeongbokgung and its mountainous backdrop, will be moved in order to make more room for large events. The plan, however, is expected to face opposition due to the historic significance of the statues. The statue of Adm. Yi Sun-sin, one of the most respected figures from the Joseon era, was built in 1968.

Other plans to transform central Seoul include the creation of a 4-kilometer underground walking path that would encompass the main areas of central Seoul — Gwanghwamun, City Hall, Euljiro and Dongdaemun.

As part of efforts to make Gwanghwamun area a public transport hub, the city government will consult with the central government on hosting a high-speed rail line at Gwanghwamun Station, it said.

GTX-A, the first to start construction among three railways serving the greater Seoul area, is an 83.1-km section connecting areas from Unjeong in Paju, northwest Gyeonggi Province, across Seoul to Dongtan, southeast Gyeonggi Province. The line will run at a maximum speed of 180 kilometers per hour.

The city government plans to begin construction work to transform the square and build the underground pedestrian pass early next year, with an aim to complete it by 2021. 

The restructuring project will cost about 104 billion won, with 66.9 billion won to be funded by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and 37.1 billion won by the Cultural Heritage Administration.


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