Lecture Video: Resurrection City

Seoul is an urban-scale blank canvas, under a constant process of macro-sized upgrading. But for every two steps forward, one step must be taken backward, inconveniencing, relocating, and even sometimes killing citizens. In this lecture, we will examine that one step backward.

Urban renewal in Korea is like nowhere else in the world (beyond a handful of superficial similarities to neighbouring China and Japan). Large plots of land are cleared for "New City" megaprojects, with little thought to urban planning and sensible development. We will look closer at the phenomena created by this process, including moon villages (달동네), nail houses, and evictee movements and modes of resistance. There will also be a focus on the conflicting forces of demolition and preservation techniques, highlighting the sometimes-violent struggle between evictee groups and governments. Urban redevelopment cases discussed will involve Cheonggyecheon, Yongsan, Hongdae, and some of Korea's earliest apartment buildings. The presentation will mainly focus on the past ten years, with glimpses back into the distant past.

Jon Dunbar is an urban explorer who has been documenting urban renewal in Seoul and around Korea since 2007, visiting construction cranes and roofs, underground rivers and storm drains, and everything in between. He curates a database of 266 abandoned areas around Korea, which includes anything from large-scale abandoned neighbourhoods to abandoned amusement parks and various other places.

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