Man-made island on Hangang soon to be opened to public

Floating Island on the Hangang River.

Seoul City and Hyosung Group signed an agreement on Thursday to normalize an artificial resort island on the Hangang River that has been idle for two years due to corruption and contract irregularities.

The city government said Floating Island, called sebitdungdungseom in Korean, would partially open within the year before entering full-fledged operations next year. It will be run by FLOSSOM, owned by Hyosung, for 30 years and then transferred to the city.

The 20,382-square-meter landmark was built in September 2011 as part of former Mayor Oh Se-hoon's Hangang Renaissance Project.

Located near the southern end of Banpo Bridge, the 139 billion won (S$161 billion) manmade island consists of three sections for conventions, art exhibitions and recreational activities.

Its opening was suspended as the city failed to find an operator and construction of its bridge was delayed.

The closure was prolonged after the city's inspection under Mayor Park Won-soon uncovered in 2012 that its private developer and city officials violated construction procedures and contract regulations and intentionally overestimated the construction costs.

Seoul Metropolitan Government and the largest investor, Hyosung, recently reached an agreement to revise the contract rules.

The operator agreed to shorten the term of its free use of the facility to 20 years from the original 30 years. It will pay fees for the remaining 10 years.

In return, the city will inject into the project a 9.2 billion won penalty imposed on the company for the delayed operation. The sum will be used to increase facilities and services for the public.

"By reactivating the operation of the island and enhancing the aspects for public good, (the city) will try hard to make it an attractive spot for both Seoul citizens and foreign visitors," Mayor Park Won-soon said.

When Floating Island was temporarily in operation in 2011, it attracted 2,000 people a day on average.

Performances, exhibitions and water leisure sports will be available after the remaining interior work is completed by next year, the city said.

By Lee Hyun-jeong (