Hundreds of South Koreans gathered in downtown Seoul on Saturday as the city officially reopened a stream that had been hidden under cement paving stones for nearly 50 years.
The Cheonggyecheon, which runs 5.8km through central Seoul, was opened to the public after a two-year multimillion-dollar face-lift ordered by Mayor Lee Myung-bak, who had pledged to recover the city's ecological landscape.
"It seemed like a far-fetched dream when they first said they will restore the stream," said 59-year-old Yoo Young-koo, who runs a business in central Seoul. "It's really nice to have a place to rest and take a stroll right in the center of the city."
South Korea's drive for industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s has helped the country become the world's 11th-largest economy, but it has also trapped major cities like Seoul in walls of concrete.
The US$380 million project involved demolishing an elevated highway that was built on top of the Cheonggyecheon, which was paved over in 1958-61 to prevent flooding and pollution...