Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square Scheduled for Expansion

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If you have been to Seoul, chances are, you would remember visiting the Gwanghwamun Square.

Expansive and impressive, the nationally symbolic plaza holds significant historical and cultural representation.

But how the public space will look in a couple of years is bound to change.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government, in a plan unveiled on Monday, announced a restructuring whereby the square would be expanded to almost four times its current size. As part of the blueprint, an underground passageway linking Gwanghwamun to Seoul City Hall, and an underground train station would also be added.

Statues of the nationally revered King Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi Sun Sin, currently situated along the centre line of the plaza, would be shifted nearer to the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and the government complex building, opening up a more expansive view of Mount Bukak ascending above Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Vehicle lanes would be decreased, with those in front of the performing arts centre set to be connected with the current walkway to form a larger square, making it more pedestrian-friendly. Parks, water fountains and cafes would be built along the larger walkway, spicing up the area.

There are concerns that the blueprint might face some opposition. The statues of the two respected historical figures at their current locations hold major historical and cultural significance to South Koreans. The statue of Admiral Yi had been built in 1968 and King Sejong’s memorial was unveiled to much public fanfare in 2009.

The local government would thus be gathering public opinion thorugh discussions before making a final decision that will respect the citizens’ sentiments.

Dubbed Deep Surface, the 104 billion won construction plan is part of a project that came in first in an international competition held by the Seoul government. Construction works are scheduled to begin next year and is expected to be completed by 2021.

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