Category: Fishing, Aquaculture / Activism and Lobbying / Regional Development

Historic Korean fish market fights relocation plan

Saturday, 14 May 2016 11:33:18

For almost half a century, Seoul's oldest and largest fish market has served an array of seafood delicacies year-round, drawing some 30,000 customers every day. But the iconic Noryangjin Fish Market is fighting a relocation plan, which fish sellers protest will destroy tradition and their livelihoods.

After opening in 1927, the market moved to its current Noryangjin location in 1971.

Then in the early 2000s, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives, or Suhyup in Korean, joined a government-led initiative to revitalise the neighbourhood, including the market, citing deterioration of the old facility.

In March, Suhyup opened the newly constructed eight-storey building, adjacent to the old market, and immediately faced strong opposition.

Kang Seung-oh of Suhyup insisted they accommodated all shop owners' demands before completing the new $455 million facility, including holding 23 rounds of negotiations and showing the building's blueprints before construction.

"We held multiple discussions with vendors before beginning construction. The people who are still in the old market are occupying those spaces illegally," he said.

But Lee Chae-ho, an official with those against relocation, refuted the claims, arguing that only 10 merchants representing a total 680 shop owners were ever consulted.

Among the 10, eight of those representatives have moved into the new building.

"The market's history makes it special. This is something wrong with Korea. There's a major problem with this type of development," Mr Lee said.

Jeong Mal-soon, 81, the oldest vendor, said she could not leave.

"They're thieves. We developed this place from nothing for over 50 years, but all that disappears if we move. I raised my family here," she said.

Inside the new facility, many floors remain empty, still smelling of fresh paint.

A little over half the Noryangjin sellers have moved in. Some are happy with the modern set-up.

"We came here by choice. It's new and clean," said one merchant who refused to be named.

Another vendor surnamed Choi disagreed, saying he was forced into the building where rent is 150 per cent higher.

"We had no idea it would look like this. I held out for as long as possible but last month they cut my water and electricity," he said.

The battle between old and new has heightened tensions at the popular tourist site, at times resulting in clashes between fish sellers and Suhyup employees, but mostly dampening the vibe of the once energetic market and leaving many confused about which Noryangjin to visit.


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