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Merchants decry crosswalk plan in Myeong-dong

2012/04/07 | 284 views |  | Permalink | Source

A placard is hung at the entrance of the underground shopping center in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, Sunday, by merchants of mom-and-pop shops there who oppose the ward office's plan to install a crosswalk above their businesses. It reads: "We desperately oppose a crosswalk that will benefit only the rich". / Korea Times photo by Yun Suh-young

By Kim Rahn

A ward office's plan to install a crosswalk in Myeong-dong, the busy shopping district in central Seoul, is drawing strong protests from merchants located in the underground market there.

The crosswalk is supposed to be for the benefit of pedestrians but shopkeepers claim their sales will suffer steep falls as less people will go to their shops.

Junggu Office is moving to set up a crossing on the street in front of Migliore fashion mall to link the major tourist district with the Mt. Nam side of the road. The measure is aimed to allow more convenience for shoppers, tourists and residents, especially the elderly or the disabled who find it difficult to use the stairs of the underpass there.

The office has been promoting the pedestrian crossing for years. The plan was halted in September 2009 after a violent clash between the underpass storeowners and workers hired by the ward office.

At the entrances of the underground passage that connects to Myeong-dong subway station, there are placards reading: "We desperately oppose the crosswalk which will kill poor mom-and-pop merchants!"

The storekeepers say the number of shoppers using the underground passage will drop considerably.

"The damage will be huge if the crosswalk is made just above. We're all worried about it", said Jeong Seung-jun, who runs a record shop there, Sunday.

"My cousin has a store at the Hoehyeon shopping underpass near Shinsegae Department Store. She said after pedestrian crossings were set up, only a few people come down to the shops. First it was the City Hall underpass, then Hoehyeon, and now it's our fate", he said.

To prevent such a clash from recurring, the office is in negotiations with the merchants.

"The storeowners are opposing a crosswalk right above, in front of Migliore at the main entrance of the tourist district. But they say they may accept a crossing some 70-80 meters away from the passage. So we're trying to reach an agreement", district official Oh Kwan-hong said.

It will be difficult to please everyone as residents and shop owners on the Mt. Nam side want the crosswalk to be established right in front of Migliore, the shortest way to Myeong-dong, Oh said.

"In return for obtaining an operation license, the underground merchants promised to build an escalator each at two entrances to the underpass, and the plan is ongoing. The shopkeepers already invested 1.6 billion won for the escalators and other facility improvements, so at this point a crosswalk just above their shops is unacceptable. They claim their right to live is more important than visitors' right to walk", he said.

Visitors to Myeong-dong showed mixed reactions.

A Korean couple, who parked their car on the Mt. Nam side and crossed to the Migliore side through the underpass, welcomed the crosswalk there, as they had to go down and up the stairs while the wife carried their four-year-old girl in her arms and the husband carried the stroller.

"A crosswalk will really be helpful for people like us", the husband, Lee, said, panting at the top of the steps.

Felicia, a tourist from Indonesia, said she doesn't care. "When I come to Myeong-dong, I use the subway and thus the passage, too. I don't think I'll use a crosswalk much even if one is set up over the station", she said.

명동 지하보도 상인들 횡단보도 설치에 결사반대

중구청이 명동에 횡단보도를 설치하려 하자 지하상가 상인들이 강력히 반대하고 나섰다. 보행자의 편의를 위한 계획이지만 상인들은 횡단보도가 설치되면 관광객들이 지하로 내려오지 않아 매상이 뚝 떨어질 것이라는 주장이다.

중구청은 노약자나 장애인 등 보행약자를 위해 밀리오레 앞에서 길 건너편 남산 쪽을 연결하는 횡단보도를 설치하려 오래 전부터 계획해왔지만, 2009년 상인들과 용역 간의 충돌이 있은 후 계획이 보류돼 왔었다.

현재 명동역 지하상가 입구에는 "영세상인 죽이는 횡단보도 결사반대!" 등의 문구가 적힌 플래카드들이 걸려있다. 상인들은 지하상가 유동인구가 확 줄어들 것이라 걱정하고 있는 것이다. 레코드샵을 정승준씨는 "타격이 클 것이다. 우리 모두 걱정이 크다. 사촌누나가 회현 지하상가에 가게가 있는데 횡단보도 설치 후에 다니는 사람이 없다고 하더라. 처음엔 시청 지하상가, 그 다음에 회현, 이제 우리 차례다"라고 말했다.

2009년 같은 충돌을 피하기 위해 중구청은 상인들과 협의를 진행하고 있다. 구청 관계자는 "지하 상인들은 자기네들 바로 머리 위, 밀리오레 앞에 횡단보도 설치하는 것은 강력하게 반대하고 있다. 그러나 좀 떨어진 곳에 설치하는 것은 수용할 수 있다는 입장을 보여 논의중이다"라고 말했다.

그러나 이 관계자는, 몇몇 주민들과 상인들은 밀리오레 안을 강력히 주장하고 있어서 합의가 쉽지 않다고 밝혔다. 구청 관계자는 "지하 상인들은 2 군데 출구에 에스칼레이터를 설치하는 조건으로 영업권을 낙찰받았다. 이미 설치 계획이 진행중이고 이미 16억원을 투자했기 때문에, 이들로써는 자기들 바로 위에 횡단보도가 설치되는 것을 받아들일 수 없는 입장이다. 생존권이 보행권보다 더 중요하다는 것이다"라고 말했다.

쇼핑객들은 다양한 반응을 보이고 있다.

남산쪽에 차를 세운 후 아내는 4살짜리 딸을 안고, 또 남편은 유모차를 들고 낑낑거리며 지하보도를 통해 명동쪽으로 온 한 커플은 횡단보도 설치에 찬성하는 입장을 보였다.

반면 인도네시아 관광객 펠리시아는 상관없다는 반응이었다. 이 관광객은 "나는 명동에 올 때 지하철을 이용하기 때문에 어차피 지하상가를 지난다. 횡단보도가 설치돼도 별로 이용할 것 같지 않다"라고 말했다.

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