The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Monday announced plans to build the second Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in Yeouido near the banks of the Han River, as part of the city government's Seoul renovation plan.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said during his trip to Germany that the new concert hall will be inspired by the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, a concert hall located on the banks of Elbe River in Hamburg.
According to the city government, the northern part of Yeouido Park will be transformed into a concert hall, containing restaurants and recreational facilities. It will serve as a riverside landmark from 2026 in the park which lies adjacent to the city's Yeouido business district in southwestern Seoul.
The plan, which involves building a large 2000-seat theater and a smaller 400-seat theater, along with other facilities, has stirred up controversy after authorities switched the proposed location of the concert hall from Mullae-dong to neighboring Yeouido within the same district, without consent of its citizens.
According to Seoul's plan, revealed by Rep. Kim Young-joo of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, the whole Yeouido Park renovation project, including the construction of the concert hall, will cost the city over 330 billion won ($251.5 million).
At the center of the debate is which entity will own the site where the concert hall will be constructed.
The second Sejong Center plan stipulates that a ward office grant the land it owns to the municipal government for free.
The previous Mullae site is owned by the ward office, while Yeouido Park is owned by the municipal government. This means that using Yeouido Park as the proposed site for the new concert hall will not require the free provision of 13,000 square-meters of property and land owned by a ward office.
However, Rep. Kim Young-joo, who represents the constituency that includes Mullae-dong and does not include Yeouido, denounced the decision, saying that it was unilateral and lacked communication when it came to changing the plan.
Choi Ho-kwon, incumbent chief of the Yeongdeungpo-gu district office, meanwhile, had "verbally" suggested that Seoul municipal government scrap its plan to build the new concert hall in Mullae-dong, a residential area, and instead asked for the government to review the Yeouido plan in November 2022. Choi heads the ward office that covers both Mullae-dong and Yeouido. This came after Chai Hyun-il, the former district office chief, failed to solicit foreign architects in a timely manner to proceed with the plan in Mullae-dong, according to Rep. Kim.
Yeongdeungpo-gu Ward Office has claimed that the previous site in Mullae-dong will be used to build a cultural center serving the needs of the district's citizens.
The ward office "has proceeded with the plan to (relocate the) site to choose Yeouido without notifying (citizens near Mullae-dong) of the matter," Rep. Kim said in a statement.
Seoul's response to Rep. Kim's office over the matter also revealed that Seoul City "was aware of Yeongdeungpo-gu citizens' frustrations" over to the relocation plan.
Rep. Kim added that Choi did not provide the Seoul City representatives with evidence to prove Yeouido is a better candidate than Mullae-dong, and pledged to bring the second Sejong Center plan back to Mullae-dong from Yeouido.
Rep. Kim was formerly a Labor Minister and deputy National Assembly speaker.
Seoul municipal government said in a statement the previous Mullae-dong site is deemed insufficient, given the site is surrounded by apartment complexes, making it unfitting to house a large-scale concert hall.
Seoul is home to two large-scale cultural centers -- Sejong Center for the Performing Arts near the central business district, and Seoul Arts Center near the Gangnam business district.