South Korea government to refurbish some 300 underused parks near four major rivers

People sitting by the Han river in Seoul on June 16, 2017.
People sitting by the Han river in Seoul on June 16, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The South Korean government will inspect and refurbish some 300 underused riverside parks and sports facilities built along the country's four major rivers, turning some of them back into farmland.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said on Wednesday (July 26) that it would inspect 297 riverside parks created in 2008 under the four rivers development project, which was conceived and pushed by former president Lee Myung Bak.

The 22 trillion won (US$26.7 billion) project required the rebuilding of 87 old dams, the construction of 16 new ones and the reinforcement of some 300km of riverbanks.

It aimed to prevent water shortages, improve water quality and create riverside tourist spots, but critics say it was a failure that caused damage to the environment.

As part of a plan to foster riverside tourism, some 3.1 trillion won was injected to set up a total of 357 riverside parks by the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Youngsan rivers.

The ministry's decision to inspect and refurbish the parks came amid concerns over excessive maintenance cost as well as calls to remove the "hideous" parks by the river, officials said.

The authorities estimate between 500 billion won and 1 trillion won is spent annually for the maintenance of these underused parks.

Over the next eight months, the ministry will inspect 181 community parks, 42 sports parks and 67 ecological parks, and either remove them or convert them to farmland, based on an analysis of the frequency they are visited by nearby residents.

In June, the Board of Audit and Inspection said it would probe the four rivers development project, a legacy of Mr Lee, following President Moon Jae In's order in May.