Seoul's giant Ferris wheel project faces architectural plagiarism allegations

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Seoul's giant Ferris wheel project faces architectural plagiarism allegations

Seen is the design blueprint of the Seoul Metropolitan Government's "Seoul Ring," which the city government announced will be built by 2027 on Mar. 8. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government By Lee Hae-rin Seoul's plan to build a giant Ferris wheel in its western Mapo District as a city landmark is facing allegations that it plagiarized the design of a monument selected at another government-funded project over a decade ago. The Korea Architects Institute said in a press release, Tuesday that the Seoul Metropolitan Government's design plan of the giant Ferris wheel named "Seoul Ring" is "too similar" to that of "Door of the Millennium," which was selected in the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's contest to build a national landmark in 2000. "'Seoul Ring' and 'Door of the Millennium' are similar in their concept, design, name and even the location; yet the Seoul government's announcement makes no mention whatsoever on 'Door of the Millennium,'" the statement said, claiming Seoul has committed "an unethical deed that clearly neglects copyright," which could lead to plagiarism allegations.

On March 3, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon announced the plan to build "Seoul Ring" as part of the city's "Great Sunset Project" during his meeting with some 150 foreign envoys from 99 countries to Korea. The city government announced the plan in a press conference last Wednesday. The original design is the ministry-selected work of Korean architects Woo Dae-seung and Lee Eun-seok ― a giant circular structure with a 200-meter diameter and containing four gondolas that can each carry up to 20 passengers. Lee Eun-seok, left, and Woo Dae-seung, the original designers of the "Door of the Millennium" present their work, which was selected by then-Ministry of Culture and Tourism's design contest for national landmark in 2000. Korea Times file At the time, the culture ministry launched the "Door of the Millennium" project to build a series of landmark monuments every decade, starting with one at Sangam-dong where the World Cup Stadium is located and the games of the 2002 FIFA World Cup was to be held.

The master plan was to build 12 monuments across the country and announce them as a "symbol of peace" in the event of unification with North Korea. However, the project faced fierce opposition for the reasons of cost, safety and protest from civic groups, and was eventually dropped. The designers fought a six-year legal battle against the ministry to recoup the unpaid design cost. The court decided in favor of the designers and ordered the ministry to pay around 1.8 billion won ($1.

3 million), which still remains unpaid for administrative reasons. Meanwhile, the Seoul government denied the plagiarism allegations. According to the city government's requested legal advice, the recently announced project is "a proposal of an exemplary design based on several other monuments," one of which is the "Door of the Millennium," the city government's official statement released said, Wednesday. "The basic shape of a giant Ferris wheel belongs to the public domain that anybody can use. Also, it ('Seoul Ring') is a different monument from the 'Door of Millennium' from a functional perspective.

Thus, it is not an infringement of copyright," the statement said, adding that the city government "respects" the design of the latter. However, the designer Woo condemned the city government's stance. "The architect's request to not use the design was ignored," Woo wrote on his social media, Tuesday. The architect criticized the city government's alleged copying of an existing work and its plan to "receive proposals from the private sector" instead of holding a design contest. "The architect and the author (of the original design) does not want that and told (the city government) not to use it.

We did not allow it. I am going to protect my rights as an architect," Woo said. Woo did not respond to a Korea Times request for comments.

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