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  • 작성자 사진Lee Noo-ri

[History] The Conflict Between Tradition and Development: Gimpo Jangneung and Apartment Complexes

No. 155 / Dec 6, 2021

Apartments built around Incheon’s Heritage “Gimpo Jangneung Royal Tomb” have roused great controversy. Gimpo Jangneung is a tomb dedicated to Wonjong and his Queen Consort Incheon, the parents of King Injo, the 16th king of Joseon, and one of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites “Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty”. With the construction of an apartment complex with 3,400 households, as the apartments tower higher than 20 stories, it might block the view of Gyeyangsan Mountain in Incheon, which should be visible from the Jangneung Royal Tombs. The landscape of the cultural property is thus damaged by these apartment complexes. Therefore, concerns have been raised that all 40 tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, including Gimpo Jangneung, may be canceled from the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Currently, conflicts between the Cultural Heritage Administration and construction companies have intensified over cultural properties and apartment complexes.

Why have apartments continued to be built until there was a problem with cultural properties? In short, the three construction companies that built the apartment complexes did not follow the Cultural Heritage Protection Act, under which, in order to build a building more than 20m high within 500m of a historical, cultural, or environmental conservation area, permission to change the current state of the cultural properties quo must be obtained. The Cultural Heritage Administration visited Jangneung Royal Tombs to deliberate on permission to change other phenomena and became aware of the apartment complex being built nearby. The Cultural Heritage Administration lodged a complaint against the construction companies and the Seo-gu Office of Incheon ordered the suspension of construction and charged the companies with violating the Cultural Heritage Protection Act. As the trial proceeded, the construction progress and the suspension was repeated.

There is a precedent for the cancellation of registration from the UNESCO World Heritage Site due to development. This year, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) decided to remove the “Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City” from the World Heritage List because development has been made inside and outside the designated area of the World Heritage Site, and its authenticity and integrity have been significantly impaired. In the case of Gimpo Jangneung, all the other 39 Joseon royal tombs scattered around the country can be canceled from the World Heritage Site. Therefore, people’s concerns about this are growing. More than 200,000 people participated in the Blue House petition to demolish the apartment complex that had been built without the permission of the Cultural Heritage Administration.

Of course, it is true that tradition and development can coexist, but tradition should not be damaged without legitimate permission. Experts are concerned that these cases will be repeated in other regions. Construction companies oppose the demolition because of the many residents who have to move in next year, but the head of the Korea Cultural Heritage Policy Research Institute said the order to suspend construction seeks to prevent illegal activities by the construction companies, who should compensate the residents promptly, including land compensation. Even today, people’s interest in and concern over Gimpo Jangneung and the apartment complex surrounding it continues.


By Lee Noo-ri AG Senior Editor

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