Safety concerns loom over new Lotte World

The first Lotte World in Seoul.

SEOUL - The second Lotte World, one of the biggest construction projects in South Korea, still faces major hurdles before it can open, as Seoul City is reluctant to give the green light due to safety issues.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said Friday that the city would decide when the second Lotte World could open only after safety concerns had been fully resolved.

The mayor denied rumours that the lower part of the skyscraper complex would open before the Chuseok holiday in early September, and said he would approve the structure only after a sufficient safety inspection was conducted.

"Some 200,000 people are expected to visit (the complex), and it would be dreadful if some sort of accident occurred," Park said in a radio interview. "Seoul has already formed a consulting team of 23 experts to examine the area.

"The permission (to open the complex) will be granted only after the examination is completed. We've already found 80 things that we are not satisfied with, and requested that they be fixed," he said.

Seoul has put on hold the opening of the second Lotte World, currently under construction in Jamsil, southern Seoul, citing concerns over a lack of safety measures such as emergency escape routes.

Lotte has already rented out most of the areas in the lower parts of the complex, which will be revealed to the general public before other sections of the complex. The second Lotte World complex will consist of four buildings: the 123-floor Lotte World Tower, an eight-floor department store and two 11-floor commercial buildings.

Also hindering the complex's grand opening are environmental issues potentially linked to the construction of the towers.

Several sinkholes - caused by some form of collapse underground - appeared in areas adjacent to the towers, leading many to believe it is related to the excessive excavation needed to build the towers.

"We are currently investigating the issue. There is also the problem of water receding at Seokchon Lake. Seoul is investigating the underlying causes behind both issues," Park said.

Last month, a probe by the group of experts and Seoul City officials found that the construction may be the cause of the falling water levels of nearby Seokchon Lake.

Seoul will announce its finding on the causes of the sinkholes this week, according to the mayor.

As the sinkholes caused concerns among the general public, the government also moved to provide countermeasures for it.

Sinkholes can be formed when a construction site's excavation causes subterranean water flows to sweep away the dirt underneath the pavement, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.