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In July 2003, then-Seoul mayor, Lee Myung-bak initiated a project to remove the elevated highway and restore the stream. It was a major undertaking as not only did the highway have to be removed, but as years of neglect and development had left the stream nearly totally dry, 120,000 tons of water were to be pumped in daily from the Han River, its tributaries, and groundwater from subway stations. At that time, safety problems also occurred due to the deteriorated concrete construction. Despite this, restoration of Cheonggyecheon was deemed important as it fit in with the movement to re-introduce nature to the city and to promote a more eco-friendly urban design. Other goals of the project were to restore the history and culture of the region, which had been lost for 30 years, and to revitalize the economy of the metropolis, Seoul.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government established several organizations to oversee the successful restoration of Cheonggyecheon: the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project Headquarters for the control of the whole project, the Citizen’s Committee for Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project for the management of conflict between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the union of merchants, and the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Research Corps for the establishment and review of the restoration plan.
To address the consequent traffic problem, the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project Headquarters established traffic flow measures in the downtown section affected by the restoration work and coordinated changes in the downtown traffic system based on the research of the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Research Corps.
The restoration of two historic bridges, Gwangtonggyo and Supyogyo, was also a contentious issue, as several interest groups voiced opinions on how to restore historical and cultural sites and remains, and whether to replace the bridges or not.
The Cheonggyecheon restoration project had the purpose of preserving the unique identity of the natural environment and the historic resources in the CBD of Seoul, and to reinforce the surrounding business area with information technology, international affairs and digital industries. The plan also encouraged the return of the pedestrian-friendly road network connecting the stream with traditional resources, e.g. Bukchon, Daehangno, Jungdong, Namchon and Donhwamungil. This network system, named the CCB (Cheonggyecheon Culture Belt), tried to build up the foundation of cultural and environmental basis of the city.