People living and doing business on Namiseom, a popular tourist site in Gangwon Province, are voicing doubts about plans to build a new expressway to mitigate heavy traffic between Seoul and Chuncheon, the second-largest city in the province by population.
Their main concern is that tourist boats could crash due to a new bridge that would be constructed over the Bukhan River, a Han River tributary that runs through both North and South Korea, then westward to the Yellow Sea. The bridge would cut across the long ferry routes between Namiseom and a riverbank in Gapyeong, as well as between Namiseom and another small island called Jaraseom.
Passenger boats, ferries, barges and jet skiers would therefore be forced to move between the bridge pillars, where the currents are much stronger. Without constant dredging under the bridge, it would be nearly impossible to operate the ferries, according to Namiseom.
An aerial view of Namiseom, on the Bukhan River (Courtesy of Namiseom)
“(Residents and vendors at Namiseom) do not oppose the expressway plan itself. All they want is to change the location of the bridge, so that it does not block the boat routes,” a Namiseom representative said.
The plan could also affect leisure activities on the 60,000-square-meter island, which hosts some 1.2 million foreign visitors annually, such as jet skiing and river-crossing zipline rides. It could threaten the local ecosystem, said a spokesperson for Namiseom.
In late June, the Korea Development Institute unveiled the draft of the plan based on research that Wonju Regional Office of Construction Management outsourced. The Wonju Regional Office is a unit of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.
The new expressway is one of 23 social overhead capital projects planned as part of infrastructure development efforts across the nation, which the Ministry of Strategy and Finance has exempted from feasibility studies. All 23 SOC projects were scheduled to gain simultaneous approval in June.
But controversy over the new Seoul-Chuncheon expressway has pushed the deadline to September this year.
According to the initial plan, the expressway was scheduled to be built by 2022 but can be delayed. “It is too early to discuss whether to revise the current draft,” an official from the Wonju Regional Office said.
By Son Ji-hyoung