Land Lost and Land-locked in Seoul

I've mentioned in several blog posts already about having spent time working for Byoung Soo Cho in Seoul, Korea. During my stay, I really got to know Seoul for the first time in my life. Amongst all the fantastic memories of urban life and constant metropolitan redevelopment, I was left wondering about a piece of land I would often pass by near the city's center. Having a project site just down the street, I would ask co-workers and even family members why this piece of perfectly well-situated land was being unused surrounded by a tall fence, but no one seemed to really know or have an answer. The best I got was thinking maybe it was sensitive government land or maybe even contaminated land under environmental review (long-term EIR?).

 Here's a shot of the TT Towers (photo by my friend Hwang Wooseop) just to the south of the empty site.

Here's a shot of the TT Towers (photo by my friend Hwang Wooseop) just to the south of the empty site.

 The red buildings were the site of the Twin Tree Towers that BCHO Architects designed. See that piece of land just to the north and slightly east? An empty void in one of the most expensive parts of Seoul, perfectly well situated between Gyeongbuk Palace, Gwanghwamun Plaza, and Insadong. 

The red buildings were the site of the Twin Tree Towers that BCHO Architects designed. See that piece of land just to the north and slightly east? An empty void in one of the most expensive parts of Seoul, perfectly well situated between Gyeongbuk Palace, Gwanghwamun Plaza, and Insadong. 

So any guesses as to why the land isn't developed? 

 The site would make for a pretty awesome studio design project, in my opinion.

The site would make for a pretty awesome studio design project, in my opinion.

 Approximately  40,771.50 square meters of land, completely un(der)-developed. 

Approximately  40,771.50 square meters of land, completely un(der)-developed. 

I recently came about reading some news that the land is actually "locked" for any development due to flight restrictions. Being so close to Gyeongbuk Palace and the Blue House (yep, that would be the White House equivalent of South Korea) there are a lot of security vulnerabilities that restrict buildings from being taller. I remember when we worked on the TT Towers, we had to coordinate with government security for some of these items. 

 Here's a greener view of the pocket of land that remains undeveloped. There are buildings along the perimeter that are in use and accessed from exterior side streets, such as the two buildings in the foreground to the right. 

Here's a greener view of the pocket of land that remains undeveloped. There are buildings along the perimeter that are in use and accessed from exterior side streets, such as the two buildings in the foreground to the right. 

Upon researching who actually owns the land, I was surprised to see that it isn't the government. In fact, the deed to the land has changed hands several times, mostly through big name Korean companies and corporations but due to government restrictions on the land, each optimistic owner seems to have kept their fingers crossed hoping for some new slack, only to be disappointed in their investment and selling it off to another sanguine developer. After your pick of Hyundai, Samsung, and others, the land most currently belongs to the Korean Air family. 

It's fun to think about what might happen there over time. What if the capital of South Korea were to move to Sejong City, or if Korea were to re-unify down the line. It's a gold-mine piece of land that is waiting to be developed into something new and exciting.