Skip to main content

Record-breaking skyscraper threatened by sinkholes

By Euan McKirdy, CNN
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
An increasing number of sinkholes have appeared in and around the neighborhood where the Lotte World Tower is being built in Seoul, South Korea. The first one was discovered in June and several others have appeared since then, according to local media reports, causing the construction of what would be Seoul's tallest building to come under scrutiny. An increasing number of sinkholes have appeared in and around the neighborhood where the Lotte World Tower is being built in Seoul, South Korea. The first one was discovered in June and several others have appeared since then, according to local media reports, causing the construction of what would be Seoul's tallest building to come under scrutiny.
HIDE CAPTION
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
When the ground gives way
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Appearance of mystery sinkholes around Seoul have authorities baffled
  • Holes near construction of the Lotte World Tower, the world's 6th tallest building, have led to a review
  • Following April's Sewol ferry tragedy, safety has become a focus in South Korea

(CNN) -- The construction of what would be Seoul's tallest building has hit a snag following the appearance of a number of mysterious sinkholes in and around the neighborhood where it is being built.

Residents of South Korea's capital are alarmed by the increasing incidence of sinkholes -- depressions, measuring up to several feet in depth and diameter, which have suddenly appeared around Seoul.

The first one was discovered in June, and since then several others have appeared, local media have reported. Now, in a climate marked by increased safety concerns, the construction of a huge skyscraper in the city has come under scrutiny.

Last month, two holes within a couple of meters of each other were discovered near the National Assembly in the Yeouido district of the capital.

World's tallest buildings will clean air
The next world's tallest building?
Completed in 2010 in Dubai, Burj Khalifa's architectural height is 2,717 feet (828 meters) and is occupied to a height of 1,918 feet (584.5 meters). A building's architectural height may include spires, but not antennas, flag poles or signage, according to the Council on Tall Buildings criteria. Completed in 2010 in Dubai, Burj Khalifa's architectural height is 2,717 feet (828 meters) and is occupied to a height of 1,918 feet (584.5 meters). A building's architectural height may include spires, but not antennas, flag poles or signage, according to the Council on Tall Buildings criteria.
World's tallest buildings
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: World\'s tallest buildings Photos: World's tallest buildings
Where are the tallest skyscrapers being built?
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
>
>>
Reaching new heights Reaching new heights

Several examples of this unexplained phenomenon have occurred near the site of the Lotte World Tower, a half-constructed commercial and office development by Korean conglomerate Lotte which, when completed, will be the sixth tallest tower in the world.

Holes have appeared in at least two streets in the Songpa district, where the new tower is being built, including a 50 centimeter (20 inch) wide hole only half a kilometer (a third of a mile) from the Lotte World Tower construction site.

So far, authorities are baffled. "We do not know the cause yet," a police officer told the Korea Times. "In cooperation with Seoul Metro and Seoul Metropolitan Government, we investigated the problem and only found that the holes have nothing to do with sewerage."

A lake near the site, which appears to be shrinking, is also cause for concern. Water levels have fallen about 70 centimeters (27 inches), although Seulki Lee, a spokesperson for Lotte Group, told CNN that it would be "nearly impossible" for the water to drain into the tower's foundations due to a slurry wall between the lake and the construction.

The spokesperson also said that the company was looking into the mysterious sinkholes.

"We are working on an investigation of sinkholes but it will take some time to figure out what's going on," she said.

She said that academics and engineers from Lotte have told the construction company that the sinkholes are not related to the site but it is "necessary to figure out what is going on" to provide assurance for the public.

Plans for the 555-meter (1,821-foot), 123-story tower were first put forward almost two decades ago, but planning permission was slow in coming, due to security concerns from a nearby military base.

Construction of the tower, designed by American firm KPF, is underway and more than half of the tower's floors have been completed. The architecture firm was, at the time of press, unavailable for comment.

Professor Hong Gun Park of Seoul National University's Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering was a consultant on the project, completing an "outsider's evaluation."

He told CNN that the foundations of the building were solid, and that Seoul had no history of subsidence.

"People found sinkholes near the building site, (and) since there is a small lake, they are worried about the robustness of the foundation of the building.

"However, recently many sinkholes were found here and there in Seoul. Furthermore the foundation of the building is deep and is sitting on the deep hard rock. Thus in my opinion there is no problem (with) the structural safety of the building."

He said that it was unlikely that the Seoul municipal government would halt construction without reasonable cause.

The safety concerns over the building come months after the country was shocked by the sinking in April of the Sewol ferry, which led to widespread criticism throughout South Korea that safety was not a priority. Almost 300 people, mostly teenagers on a school trip, died when the ferry capsized. orv

Corvette museum reopens after sinkhole swallowed pricey cars

Sinkholes: Common, costly and sometimes deadly

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT