(ATTN: RECASTS lead; UPDATES with Seoul mayor's comments, details on development project)
By Lee Minji
SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul city government on Thursday hinted at delaying an ambitious plan to develop Gwanghwamun Square, a plaza in the city's center that has become a symbol of democracy following candlelight vigils demanding former President Park Geun-hye's exit.
"We are prepared to do anything for a major project involving the new Gwanghamun Plaza. We will not cling to the project schedule," Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said in a press conference, declining to give details of a new timetable.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government had planned to pump 104 billion won (US$87 million) into revamping the areas surrounding the square by 2021 to create a vehicle-free space 3.7 times larger than the current area.
The proposal would involve closing down some roads around the square as well as relocating the statues of Joseon dynasty figures King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun-sin, sparking opposition from activists who opposed the relocation of the historic statues and raised concerns over traffic congestion.
The central government, represented by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, had also vocally opposed the idea amid concerns that the new plaza may interfere with normal operations at the Seoul Government complex next to the plaza.
Noting the friction, Park said he will take time to have more conversations with the people of Seoul, emphasizing this is a "project made by the people." He also said the city government has reached a "solid consensus" with the central government to cooperate on a step-by-step revamp of the venue.
The Gwanghwamun Square plan is one of many urban redevelopment projects the mayor is pushing for. He announced the plan to remodel Gwanghwamun Plaza in January, saying he wants to create a landmark space similar to London's Trafalgar Square and Paris' Arc de Triomphe.
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