Ask ten people what the best landmark in Busan is, and nine of them will tell you this. It’s Gwangan Bridge, a “diamond bridge” that crosses the sea off Gwangalli. For Busan residents, Gwangan Bridge is familiar in many ways. It is used by hundreds of thousands of people every day to commute to and from work, as well as a venue for fireworks festivals, marathons, and other events. It is also popular overseas as a regular location for movies. Marvel’s Black Panther even ran across Gwangan Bridge. It’s hard to imagine Busan without Gwangan Bridge, but can you believe that the bridge is the result of the hard work of a government official? We met Mr. Cho Chang-guk (80), the former head of the Gwangan Boulevard Construction Division, who led the construction of Gwangan Bridge.

Mr. Cho Chang-guk, former head of Gwangan-daero Construction Project, who led the construction of Gwangan Bridge. Busan Daily DB

The bridge that everyone hated

Mr. Cho recalled that the Gwangan Bridge was “a bridge made by primitive people. It was a project that was impossible with the technology of the time. The bridge was built in December 1994 and opened on January 6, 2003, with a total project cost of 78.9 billion won, or 1.5 trillion won in current value. It is the first double-decker maritime bridge in Korea with a total length of 7420 meters, with a distance of 500 meters between the main towers alone, and the longest suspension bridge. “At the time, the longest bridge in Busan had a span (distance between piers) of only 60 meters,” Cho said. “I learned a lot from the Golden Gate Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge in the United States and the Rainbow Bridge in Japan.”

When the construction of the Gwangan Bridge began, opposition came in like a tidal wave: why build it on the sea instead of on land, what’s the point of expensive suspension bridges, and how is it an eyesore that spoils nature? “The main reason was that environmental pollution and construction pollution caused house prices to fall,” Cho said. “Some people even came to the office, broke the furniture, and threw filth on the gate of the house.”

Nevertheless, there was a reason why Gwangan Bridge was necessary. It was because of Haeundae New Town. Haeundae New Town was built in 1987 as part of President Roh Tae-woo’s policy to build 2 million housing units. The problem was the roads. The swimming pool road, which was only four lanes round trip, could not handle the increasing traffic. Widening the swim path and building an overpass were not an option. “Gwangan Bridge was built to make Haeundae New Town a success,” says Cho. “If Namcheon and Haeundae New Town are connected by a 10-minute living area, the potential future value will be more than 100 billion won.”

Gwangan Bridge was built despite numerous objections. It is now a representative landmark of Busan. Courtesy of Changguk Cho

Initially, Gwangan Bridge was conceived as an access road for Haeundae New Town alone, from Namcheon-dong’s 49th square to the entrance of Dongbaek Island, and was envisioned as a four-lane, single-story concrete bridge, rather than the current eight-lane system of upper and lower plates. However, Mr. Cho had a different idea: four lanes were not enough for Busan’s future, which included Suyeong Airfield, a former army airfield, Suyeong Bay landfill, and Gijang-gun, which has room for development. “It would be easy to do the construction right away, but as a public official and an engineer, my conscience did not allow it,” Cho said. “We went through dozens of briefings on why we needed an eight-lane bridge, and the city council members who opposed it to the end went to their homes with materials and convinced them one by one.” The Gwangan Bridge is also a project that is the starting point of the Busan Coastal Ring Road, which connects Haeundae to Myeongji and Noksan Industrial Complex. He said, “Gwangan Bridge was the reason I drew the sketch of Busan’s current road network.” He said, “I wonder why the top plate is not in the direction of Marine City, but at that time, Haeundae was a wasteland and Marine City was the sea. It was more appropriate for people coming into Busan on the Gyeongbu Expressway to see Namcheon-dong along with the main tower of the suspension bridge.” “The whole world was against it, but only one person, Mayor Kim Young-hwan, was in favor of it,” Cho said, expressing his gratitude. “He approved a project that was more than three times Busan’s one-year budget at the time, which was a great help.”

Life expectancy of 200 years+α메이저놀이터

The construction process of the Gwangan Bridge marked a milestone for Korean construction companies. Mr. Cho would rather die than be judged as a ‘futile project’. He sharpened his “soul” to silence the opposition. He is confident that the Gwangan Bridge has a life expectancy of more than 200 years.

In January 1995, a month after the construction of Gwangan Bridge, the Great Kobe Earthquake struck Japan. “After the earthquake, we strengthened the earthquake-resistant design of the Gwangan Bridge,” he says. “The bridge’s spans are embedded 1.5 meters deep in the rocks beneath the seabed. It can withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake,” he claimed.

Safe from typhoons Gwangan Bridge is designed to withstand average wind speeds of 45 meters per second and maximum wind speeds of 78 meters per second. Typhoon Mae-mi hit the Korean Peninsula in 2003. The coastline was heavily damaged, but Gwangan Bridge remained intact. The secret is that it was designed with a ‘wind tunnel test’. This unfamiliar test generates wind in a tunnel-like space to check the extent of damage to buildings, and Gwangan Bridge is the first bridge in Korea to incorporate wind tunnel testing into its piers. “After searching, we heard that the University of Western Ontario in Canada could conduct the experiment, so we applied it to Gwangan Bridge,” Cho said. “The upper and lower floors were designed as truss bridges to make them more resistant to wind.”

Gwangan Bridge, the first wind tunnel in Korea. Mr. Cho is the third from the right. Courtesy of Changguk Cho

The lifespan of a concrete bridge over the sea is only 50 years. The Yeongdo Bridge, built in 1940 at the end of the Japanese occupation, didn’t last 30 years before it had to be repaired and eventually demolished and rebuilt. The reason: rust. How does Gwangan Bridge, a steel river bridge, stay rust-free for 20 years? The secret is in the special paint. Gwangan Bridge was painted with ‘IC531’, a special paint for satellites developed by NASA. The paint is not only applied to the surface of the steel, but also penetrates to a depth of 0.2 millimeters into the steel plate and adheres to it, preventing it from rusting. Mr. Cho says the cost was more than double, but it was a worthwhile investment to create a landmark. “The ‘sandblasting’ process, which uses sand to remove the surface of the steel plates, is essential,” he said.

■ Gwangan Bridge is not a ‘half-baked’ project

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