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(LEAD) Seoul city holds off Shilla's plan for hanok hotel again

All News 18:14 January 21, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS more info throughout)

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul city government has decided to withhold Hotel Shilla's plan to build a traditional accommodation in central Seoul for the fourth time, officials said Thursday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government decided Wednesday to put on hold the plan to erect a hotel built in the style of a traditional Korean house within the compound of the luxury accommodation affiliate of South Korea's biggest conglomerate, Samsung Group.

There has long been controversy over whether the hotel's move would hurt the national scenery or it would help vitalize the country's tourism industry.

Hotel Shilla has submitted a modified construction plan reducing the structure from four stories above ground and below to three each, and cutting the number of rooms from 207 to 91. The distance from the fortress wall of Hanyang, the old name of Seoul, also increased from 20.5 meters to 29.9 meters.

Despite the fact that the company accepted 90 percent of the city government's demands to improve the plan, experts say the upcoming April general elections may have deterred municipal authorities from making a favorable decision, as it could cause unnecessary controversy over possible privileges given to the family-run conglomerate.

"As the construction is an important issue for the city as well, we concluded a more thorough examination is needed before any decision is made," said an official from the city government, who wanted to remain anonymous.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government rejected Hotel Shilla's previous moves in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

"Once we figure out the grounds for the decision, we will review them and apply again with a revised version," an official from the company said, adding the project is the hotel's central business with some 30 billion won (US$247 million) in investment. "This project will boost the tourism industry and create jobs by building a landmark in Seoul where there is no hanok hotel."

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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