The British Embassy in Seoul returned the Doldamgil Road to the public on Aug. 30, which had been occupied by the diplomatic mission for over 130 years.
The 100-meter stretch of land at the back of the embassy did not formally belong to the British mission, but was incorporated into the compound since the 1960s. The issue was put under the spotlight in 2010, and raised with the embassy, leading to a memorandum of understanding between the embassy and the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
“Whether residents of Seoul or visitors from other parts of Korea or abroad, I hope that as they walk along the road they will catch a glimpse of the natural and cultural legacy of this area, and reflect on the unique contribution that it has played in the history of the great city of Seoul, and its relations with the rest of the world,” British Ambassador to Korea Charles Hay said at the commemorative ceremony on Aug. 30.
British Ambassador to Korea Charles Hay (second from right in the center) and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon (center) mark the return of Doldamgil Road to the public at a ceremony on Aug. 30 (Yonhap)
“The embassy was committed to finding a solution that allowed for the development of a green cultural and historic zone at the heart of Seoul without compromising the security of our people and of our historic buildings,” the diplomatic mission said.
“As with any such changes to the infrastructure and integrity of an embassy compound, the proposal was thoroughly reviewed by security and other experts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Their decision was that the increased security risks associated with the project were not compatible with the FCO’s duty of care to embassy staff, clients and visitors, and that there were no suitable mitigation measures that could be taken to reduce the risk to an acceptable level. The embassy therefore reverted to the idea simply of returning the leased land. ”
The embassy is committed to giving opportunities to the public to see the embassy and its grounds, it explained, mentioning the Jeong-dong Culture night organized by Jung Gu government and the Seoul Open Night organized by Seoul Metropolitan Government. Both events have allowed ordinary Korean citizens to experience and witness the embassy compound, it said.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)