Thursday, December 31, 2009

A See-scape of Seoul

Korean is known for its "Miracle on the Han (River)", the time when Korea had a world-startling burst of financial advancement back in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1988 Korea held the Olympics which basically "put the country on the map" and made the tiny nation known to the western world. In this time of great economic development architecture developed from simple shacks quickly assembled after the Korean War [David Hyoungbok Lee in "Who Will Answer..." states that people were in fear of putting much effort in their building constructions as they were continually expecting a break in the fragile truce between the two Koreas, but then too, destruction of the country was so complete that there was little to use for building materials] to two-storey frames and brick buildings in the late 1970s and 1980s. By the 1993 World Expo more and more constructions were multi-storied with an ever-burgeoning number of high-rises and apartment complexes. The apartment buildings rose from shorter storied buildings to 14-storeys and gradually like a child's advancing age and ability to stack blocks the apartment buildings shot increasingly upward to 20 and 25-storeys and sometimes beyond.

However, with the development of the buildings and quality of materials employed in construction, evidence of the "haves" and the "have-nots" becomes strikingly apparent around Hoegi, Cheongryangri and Chegi-dong, where decent hovels from the 1960s and perhaps 1970s lie in the shadows of the wealthy. The government is continually designating such areas like these as "새마을" or New Towns where residents must develop (if they own property which very few do) or move. Hoegi, Cheongryangri and Chegi-dong areas will not remain forever as a reminder of Korea's poorer past; they too will be developed and the people without money sufficient for the higher rents in the "vastly improved areas" will be forced further and further to the precincts of Seoul suburbia in search of a home that they with their slender means might be able to afford.


The following pictures were taken 16 June 2012. As I frequently pass by this place, I've noticed gradual changes since the picts above were taken. First one house got knocked down and the neighboring people built a type of extended cellar from their house using part of the then-empty space. Another neighbor extended their living quarters with a wrap-around porch made from all sorts of discarded boards, doors and other wind-blocking materials. Now those houses too are gone.

And to the left of the pictures above were several more ramshackle houses, one flew the flag of the shaman or mudeung. When taking the pict on June 16th, 2012, kitchen appliances seem to have been flung out of the houses, windows have disappeared and walking space is filled with all sorts of household trash and debris. And ... the mudeung flag no longer flies. It's sad to see all of the old slip away and become neutered by the synthetic and cold veneer of modernity.

As I've heard, once 75% of the people in an area sell to a New Town construction, the remaining 25% have no choice but to sell, and at very low rates. The secret is to be in the 70-75% range as those people can command the highest returns on their land and houses. The following people just get gypped.

The larger house is where the mudeung flag used to fly from.

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