Lotte Gets Go-Ahead for Construction of Skyscraper
By Na Jeong-ju
Lotte Group finally got the green light Wednesday to go ahead with its multi-billion-dollar project to build the ``Lotte World II,'' a 555-meter-tall, 112-story skyscraper near the Lotte World amusement park in southern Seoul.
The Office of the Prime Minister (PMO) approved the plan at a meeting of working groups and decided to refer it to a Cabinet meeting for endorsement as soon as possible.
The agreement came after the country's fifth-largest conglomerate, and the Air Force, which had long opposed the construction due to safety problems for airplanes, ironed out differences through negotiations, the office said.
``After gathering opinions from pilots and construction experts, the administration decided to allow the construction of the Lotte World II and take necessary measures to ensure safety,'' a spokesman said.
The site is located just 5.7 kilometers away from Seoul Airport, a key Air Force installation integral to the defense of the capital area from North Korea, and also used by head of state and foreign dignitaries, as special flights would disrupt operations at commercial airports.
Initially, the air force said the existence of the high-rise tower would pose a collision risk to planes using the airport. Under a compromise plan, however, the military will alter the direction of a runway to ensure flight safety and Lotte will cover the full costs of the overhaul, according to the office.
Lotte won approval from the Seoul City government for the construction project in the early 1990s but couldn't go ahead due to opposition from the Air Force. However, the situation has changed since President Lee Myung-bak said he was supportive of the plan as it could benefit the construction and tourism industries.
Lotte expects the number of tourists to increase by between 20 and 30 percent. Lotte World amusement park attracts about 1.5 million foreign visitors annually.
Lotte managers say the new tower is expected to be developed into a versatile venue, featuring a first class hotel, department store, cinema, theme parks, concert hall and specialty stores.
The administration also hopes to use it to bolster the nation's construction sector, which accounts for roughly 18 percent of the country's gross domestic product.