Saemangeum: A New Global City

The map of Korea is rapidly changing, and at the center of this change is Saemangeum. When Saemangeum Seawall, located in the southwestern part of the Korean Peninsula, was completed last year, it paved the way for a new economic hub city for Northeast Asia that will emphasize ecology, industry, tourism and culture.


Saemangeum Seawall, the first phase of the Saemangeum reclamation project, was completed on April 27, 2010. Connecting Buan and Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do Province, the Saemangeum Seawall is the longest seawall in the world at 33.9 km. After visiting Saemangeum Seawall, former American Ambassador to Korea Kathleen Stephens said, “While China has the Great Wall, Korea now has a Great Wall on the sea”.

Since construction on Saemangeum Seawall began in November 1991, it has been halted several times because of environmental problems. Whe all was said and done, the seawall cost 2.9 trillion won (US$ 2.4 billion), with 6,700 people a day mobilized for the project (2.47 million people annually). In addition, 910,000 pieces of equipment, from dump trucks to dredging vessels, were used, while 123 million square meter of soil and stone were used for construction.

Of particular pride to the nation is the fact that only Korean civil engineering technology was employed for this project in the deep sea, where the average depth of water is 34 m. The world’s civil engineering community also marveled at how engineers in Saemangeum overcame a massive obstacle: the high speed of the current, which stood at seven meters per second. To counteract the rushing water, engineers placed three tons of stone into gabions, tied them together into groups of four, then dropped the bundles in the water.


Eco-friendly construction methods were employed during the reclamation project. By using sea sand to pile up soil for the seawall, environmental damage caused by using soil from the land was minimalized, and saved money at the same time.

The average width of Saemangeum Seawall is 290 m (it is 535 m at its widest), and the average height is 36 m (54 m at its highest). At the top of the seawall is a four-lane road, along with parking lots, rest areas, a green zone and observatory decks. In the 15 months since its completion, Saemangeum Seawall has been visited by 10 million tourists. An average of 10,000 people a day visit the seawall on weekdays, and 30,000 to 40,000 tourists a day on weekends.

“Seamangeum Seawall is not a simple seawall but an economic expressway for Korea to advance beyond Northeast Asia. This is an unprecedented project that will change the map of Korea. We now need to move forward by building a new civilization on this vast sea before us,” said President Lee Myung-bak. He emphasized that the completion of Saemangeum Seawall is the starting point of building a new future for Korea.


The total area developed by connecting the two cities in Jeollabuk-do Province with the 33.9 km seawall is 401 sqkm in total (reclaimed land of 282.9 sqkm and a lake of 118.1 sqkm) and two-thirds the size of Seoul. That’s five times bigger than Manhattan, four times larger than Paris and three times bigger than Barcelona. Korea, as a country, actually grew by 0.4%, from 100,140 sqm to 100,541 sqm, in the process.

Saemangeum will be renamed Ariul, ari meaning “water” and ul meaning “fence or base”. The name, which translates to “city of water”, reflects the will to build a city that brings a bright future to Korea.

The Saemangeum area has been important in Korea for years because the Honam and Gimje plains are the most fertile in the country. It has also been a marine route that connects China and Japan. Saemangeum is now poised to play an important role in the 21st century.


Saemangeum aims at becoming an environmentally friendly city, combining economy, industry, tourism, leisure, international affairs, environment and culture. The five basic keywords in establishing the city are global, green, water, mankind and culture. “Global” refers to a place where the world’s manpower, money, and technology gather, while “green” is a core base for low-carbon, green growth, somewhere that nature and people coexist.

The term “water” refers to a city of water that uses clean seawater and river water, while “mankind” refers to a place where people from around the world can live together. Lastly, “culture” is a city where culture, ideas and the arts from the East and West come together.

For the next stage of development, the Korean government is planning to divide Saemangeum into different areas: a masterpiece and multifunctional city, industrial area, a seawall and multifunctional site, a farming area, an ecological/environmental area, a scientific/research area, and a new renewable energy area. The first phase of the project will be carried out by 2020, and the second phase starts in 2021, with 72.7% (205.8 sqkm) of the total area developed in the first phase.


The development of the city is a project that will cover 23.8% of the total Saemangeum area, and the city will be divided into northern and southern parts. The northern half will be developed as an industrial city for cutting-edge industries, environmental industries, commerce and residence, while the southern half will focus on tourism, with facilities like a Korean culture theme park, marine sports facilities and resorts. As for the new renewable energy area, Samsung will establish a green energy industrial complex. The Samsung Group plans to concentrate its investments in industries that deal with wind power generators, solar batteries, bio-energy and energy storage systems through the three-stage project that will last from 2021 to 2040.


The city will also be a mega-resort where people can fully enjoy nature, connecting Simsido and Yamido islands in the middle of Saemangeum Seawall. A hotel, commercial facility, convention center, medical center and water park will also be built.

As part of its efforts to support this project, the Korean government is offering benefits that include reduced taxes, reduced rent for various national/public assets and land, subsidies for employment, education and training, and support for investment companies. Furthermore, an international business and finance center is planned to be built to host multinational companies. In addition, by establishing a logistics network that covers areas along the Yellow Sea border, the Korean government is enabling the city to handle internationally transported goods in association with the new port of Saemangeum.


Also, the government will work hard to make life easy for foreigners by: issuing public documents in foreign languages, offering translation and interpretation services, establishing a foreign educational institute, opening medical institutions and pharmacies specialized for foreigners, retransmitting foreign broadcasts, specializing facilities for the care of foreign families’ children, and launching the curricula of foreign university’s


Source: KOREA People & Culture Magazine, November 2011


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