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Revived South Korea Locals-Friendly Casino Plan Stirs Controversy
A previously failed proposal for the development of a casino resort in the reclaimed Saemangeum area in South Korea has been revived and has sparked controversy just as it did four years ago when it first emerged.
Local news outlet Korea Bizwire reported today that the North Jeolla branch of South Korea’s minor opposition Bareunmirae Party announced late last month that it would draft a bill calling for a casino resort that would admit locals to be developed in the Saemangeum area. The reclaimed portion of land is located in the North Jeolla Province in the southwest part of South Korea.
The Bareunmirae Party said in its recent statement that “building a casino will become a turning point for growth” in the province. The statement read further that local politicians should
“concentrate the effort on turning the Saemangum area into an international destination for marine leisure and tourism, just like Darling Harbour in Sydney, Australia and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.”
The Bareunmirae Party’s proposal also provides for South Koreans to be allowed to gamble at the casino, if the project materializes. South Korea is home to multiple casino resorts, but under the country’s gambling law only Kangwon Land Casino, located in the remote Gangwon Province, is allowed to admit locals to its premises.
Project Faces Backlash
The proposed casino quickly stirred controversy involving political parties and environmental groups. Responding to the Bareunmirae Party’s recent statement, the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement said that the party was “distorting the facts” to make it seem as if the government has already crafted a plan to build a casino in the Saemangeum area in a bid to boost local tourism.
The federation also urged the party to nix the planned casino bill and to put an abrupt stop to all related initiatives.
The revival of the casino plan was prompted by recent reports that the South Korean government wants to develop the area into a tourism hub. The reports were met with mixed reactions. Some believe that a project of this kind would improve the local economy, while others voiced concerns that it could have a devastating environmental impact.
The plan for the addition of a locals-friendly casino in Saemangeum originally emerged in 2015. Back then, the proposal involved the development of a foreigners-only venue. In 2016, South Korea’s People’s Party presented a revised casino bill that provided for the addition of a casino that would allow locals to gamble.
The proposal faced staunch opposition from different involved parties, including Kangwon Land, the operator of the Gangwon Province casino that admits locals to its gaming floor.
Back then, Kangwon Land said that while the construction of their casino was “inevitable for the livelihood of more than 300,000 people” who needed jobs after the South Korean government restructured the local mining industry, the Saemangeum project could not be “justified in that it entails huge detrimental and intangible effects.”
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June 4, 2019