The city of Busan is being criticized for taking the lead in destroying cultural heritage by promoting the construction of a library with donations at Pier 1 of Busan Port, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list. Pier 1 of Busan Port is a key site among the 9 ‘Sites of Busan, the Evacuation Capital during the Korean War’, which were decided to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in December of last year. As Busan Port Pier 1 is a place symbolizing the ‘Busan Initiative’, a key strategy for hosting the 2030 World Expo, concerns are raised that the spirit and value of the Expo may be shaken by the library construction project.
According to Busan City and others on the 28th, the city promotes the construction of a library on a 4,000 m2 (approximately 1,200 pyeong) area of the logistics warehouse in Pier 1 of the 1st stage redevelopment area of Busan Port North Port, Jungang-dong, Jung-gu, Busan. It was in response to MBK Partners Chairman Kim Byeong-joo’s suggestion to the city in March that he would like to build a library named after him by donating 20 billion won of his own funds.
Chairman Kim of MBK Partners , known as Asia’s largest private equity investment group, is the number one asset owner in Korea. Previously, in August 2021, he had donated 30 billion won of personal property to build a library in Seoul. The city of Seoul covered the construction cost of the Seoul Metropolitan Library in Bukgajwa-dong, Seodaemun-gu with Chairman Kim’s donation. The name of the library will be ‘Seoul Municipal Kim Byeong-ju Library’. Completion and opening of the library is scheduled for 2025.
Upon receiving Chairman Kim’s donation proposal, the city proposed a condensed list of three candidate sites for library construction in the first-phase redevelopment area of the North Port. Chairman Kim visited Busan last May and personally toured his candidate site. At the time안전놀이터, he was the first to visit Pier 1 of Busan Port and was said to have landed. Accordingly, the city plans to sign a donation agreement ceremony with Chairman Kim’s side on the 10th of next month, and is in the process of carrying out related procedures.
The problem is that Pusan Port Pier 1, where the library is certain to be built, is the core of the nine sites that the city has promoted since 2015 and successfully registered on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List at the end of last year. Although various requirements are required for UNESCO World Heritage listing, heritage protection is essential. Once inscribed on the Tentative List, no new construction is permitted in the heritage area.
However, rather than protecting the heritage, the city is facing backlash, saying that it is giving up on UNESCO World Heritage listing by destroying part of the heritage area and building a new library.
The Cultural Heritage Administration held an emergency meeting in July after belatedly confirming that it was promoting the construction of a new library at Pier 1 of Busan Port, and sent an official letter to the city of the result of the meeting stating that ‘the provisional list could be withdrawn’. At the World Heritage Committee, which the city held for the first time this year on the 2nd, it was reported that experts and professors expressed fierce opposition. The second World Heritage Committee meeting will be held on the 30th to hear opinions on this matter once again.
When the decision was made to build a library at Pier 1 of Busan Port, which symbolizes the ‘Busan Initiative’, the spirit and values of the expo were shaken, and there were even concerns that a red flag would be turned on to host the expo.
Kang Dong-jin, professor of urban engineering at Kyungsung University, said, “Busan is a city that protected Korea during the Korean War. He raised his voice of criticism, saying, “Busan Port Pier 1 is a place that implies the urban identity of Busan,” and “Building a library with someone’s name in a place like this is an idea that ignores the identity and values of the city.”