NEW - download 'Seoul VillageS (서울 마을들)', my collection of 12 short fictions! Get your free copy of the ebook (4 editions: English, French, Korean, Bilingual English-Korean)!

Sunday, November 5, 2023

'Seoul Urban Legends' - 'Seoul Villages' adapted into movies

In case you missed the VIP Presentation of 'SEOUL URBAN LEGENDS' ('서울 도시 전설들') in CGV Apgujeong on October 31, here's what you need to know about the first adaptation of my short stories into movies.

(Answering the question 'Some films are very close to your original stories, others build upon them. Any remarks?': 'Books are triggers. Authors and readers create their own images in their own heads. It's very stimulating to see each and every one of these very diverse and gifted creators add their own creative layers of fiction and reality'. With CHE Heesuk, YOU On, and KIM Yong-ho during the VIP presentation in CGV Apgujeong (photos Pulse9)


  • 'Get out of your comfort zone, and dive into a fictional Seoul '
  • an omnibus movie featuring 4 short films by 6 Korean filmmakers:
    • 'Sweat Dream' (directed by CHE Heesuk)
    • 'Black Snow' (directed by YOU On)
    • 'Guisin-dong' (directed by CHOI Jong Wook, KIM Ye Jin, WON Chang Sung)
    • 'de Vermis Seoulis' (directed by KIM Yong-ho)
  • adapted from Stephane MOT's 'Seoul Villages', a collection of short stories about a fictional Seoul
  • produced by Pulse9, sponsored by Korea Creative Content Agency (KOCCA)
  • independent cinema with a touch of A.I.



    • 'Yes, this heat is inhumane, but is there even any humanity left in a world controlled by A.I.?'
    • From experimental film to music videos, CHE keeps exploring humanity and technology

    • Mi-hyun finds a boy lying on the street; her city and her life itself start feeling more intense.
    • An expert in short format contents, 'On Oppa' is also a TikTok phenomenon with over 21M followers.

    • If Seoul's most mysterious neighborhood claims you, don't even think about escaping it'
    • Glamour or underground? CHOI, KIM,, and WON track all vibes across Seoul and beyond.

    • Life is a masquerade, worms roam Seoul, and acclaimed photographer KIM Yong-ho invites you to a surreal experience.
    • Iconic fashion photographer turned artist, KIM Yong-ho brings a new light to the fabric of reality. 
    • They're all visual creators expert in their field, they're all making their first movie
    • Four radically different creations (around 20 mn each):
      • CHE Heesuk added new dimensions to the protagonist's struggles by transposing the original short story, set in early 90s Seoul, into a dystopian future.
      • YOU On opted for a vertical format to focus on the characters. 
      • CHOI, KIM, and WON built a ghost story on top of the original one, with a resolutely indie / underground touch.
      • KIM Yong-ho created a highly artistic experimental film based on still pictures and quotes from the book
    • Like the book combines multiple fictions about a shapeshifting city, the film combines multiple approaches of these fictions. 'This might be the very definition of a city: a work of fiction, utterly real, but always eluding its authors'.


(Answering the question 'Your fiction is timeless, but your background also includes startups. What did you think when you learned that A.I. virtual characters would appear in the adaptations?') 'These virtual characters belong to what's known as the 'uncanny valley', and 'Uncanny Valley could be the name of one of my fictional Seoul villages. This particular technology opens new possibilities for all kind of visual creators, actors, and performers, and it's significant to see Korea's independent cinema explore it."

We'll keep you posted about the distribution of the movie and the next steps. 

The happy few (well actually enough to fill twice the theater) who attended the VIP presentation of Seoul Urban Legends could watch the teasers and the filmmakers' interviews before a Q and A session. KIM Yong-ho's 'de Vermis Seoulis' was then screened twice so that everyone who came could watch. The whole team thanks those who could make it that day as well as everyone who supported this project that only started a few months ago.

'Seoul Urban Legends' in Tokyo for TIFFCOM 2023 (with YOU On, CHOI Jong Wook, CHE Heesuk)


If you haven't read 'Seoul Villages' yet, download the free ebook:

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*  Among many others:

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Seoul center stage

Earlier this month, Seoul became the world capital of art for a week with the conjunction of Seoul Art Week, KIAF + Frieze Seoul, Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Seoul Fashion Week, Crypto Art Seoul / Korea Blockchain Week, and a myriad of events, shows, and gallery openings.

(If you wonder what Mitch McConnell was doing on my Instagram timeline during Frieze Seoul 2023, I found this very realistic statue of him on sale at a discount price at Freeze D.C. 2023) Hopping from Hyoja-dong (Arumjigi) to Samseong-dong (Frieze-KIAF @ COEX) via Huam-dong (M+ and Doryun CHONG's homecoming, Whitestone's opening), Sinsa-dong (White Cube and LEE Jinju), Euljiro (Dan Archer and LG OLED at the DDP, Seongsu-dong (Beeple at The Gateway in S Factory), Songhyeon-dong (Kimchi and Chips' RE:WORLD), Taepyeongno (SBAU in Seoul HOUR)...

A lot of hype of course (boy did that crypto party remind me of internet extravaganza circa 2000), but also genuine gems and emotions. Good to see KIAF alive and kicking, many galleries coming from new horizons (even Accra), Doryun CHONG's emotional return to Seoul, or of course the themes of the (already!) fourth Seoul Biennale (waterways and mountains*, 2123 Seoul).

The return of visitors from China fueled the coopetition between Seoul and Hong Kong, and September here can counterbalance March madness there beyond the Frieze-Art Basel war. Interesting to see how Art Busan, now backed by web3 players, will fare / fair in early November with DEFINE (for DEsign and FINE arts in Seongsu-dong).

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* ICYMI: "Seoul waterways and urbanism - the full story"

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Tear down that Seoullo?

On Tuesday, Seoul announced that a MOU shall be signed on September 11 (!) between the city, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, and the National Architecture Policy Committee to elevate certain areas as 'national symbolic spaces'*. Among them, Seoul Station area. The Seoul Institute will complete a master plan for this problematic hub by October, and the removal of the highly controversial Seoullo 7017 is officially on the table.

I hope that will be the outcome, but more fundamentally, I hope that this time, the underlying problems will not be eluded but tackled, and I hope that this time, we will have a proper process with adequate consultation, consensus, and impact surveys (remember how PARK Won-soon rushed ahead of the elections, ignoring all red flags?).

If you follow this excuse for a blog, you already know that I'm not a fan of this urban and environmental nonsense (yes, environmental too: Seoul needs more natural biomass continuity and rich, water absorbing soils, not more thirsty plants isolated in flower pots... and certainly not sorted in alphabetical order, like in MRVDV's winning project).

You already know that the comparison with NYC's highline (itself inspired by Paris' Promenade Plantee) was a fallacy, that Seoullo should rather be compared to Cheonggye Highway, and that it chose not to solve the key issues (street level, railways...). 

You already know that maintenance costs were not sustainable, that visitor numbers started plummeting from the beginning, even before the pandemic, and that they keep decreasing. The expected failure is total.

But you also know that removing Seoullo 7017 will not solve anything by itself, that pedestrians need a safer way of crossing this sea of roads and railways, and that this concrete, steal, and asphalt sea can't remain a sea for much longer:


Seoul Station area and Seoullo 7017 (Naver Maps)

To say the least, Seoul Station's multimodal hub is very dense and messy. Tongil-ro, Sejong-daero, and Toegye-ro merge into Hangang-daero, with the Gyeongui Line and its sisters on one side, Huam-ro, and countless car and bus lanes on the other. Dedicated bus lanes have considerably facilitated pedestrian circulation on street level, and this thick ribbon may be further reduced into narrower, crossable axes. 

If going above ground failed and if the underground is saturated, there are possibilities.

Covering the railways remains high on the city's wish list, but this takes a lot of time and money. Seoul is considering moving bus transfers to the back of the station (which will have big impacts as well), and to extend walkways to prolong Sejong-daero's green promenade - I suppose with the necessary bicycle lanes - ultimately all the way from Gwanghwamun to the Han River (7 km).

Improving alternatives may reduce the flow of cars, and not just alternative routes beyond this area; alternatives that reduce the use of cars altogether. Quite a challenge in a multimodal hub already subject to bottlenecks at many levels...

What a fascinating urban challenge! One that calls for innovation instead of band-aids.

In any case, expect more Monday quarterbacking from yours truly.


Seoul Village 2023
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* I won't elaborate on this 'national symbolic space' concept, but Seoul Station clearly remains a cultural icon for the nation (entry point for many to the capital city, Gyeongui Line between Seoul and Sinuiju, Tongil-ro, KTX, Culture Station Seoul 284...).  

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Seoul waterways and urbanism - the full story

As Typhoon Khanun slashes through Korea, please all be safe.

The other day in KOTE, during my lecture "Flow and order - Seoul waterways and other urban stitches", we've seen among other things how Seoul has been struggling from day one with floods, how its waterways play a vital role in managing them, and how this role is bound to become even more critical with climate change, even if the city keeps increasing its natural defenses. 

Again, I thank the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch for inviting me, Julie AHN for making the event possible in our beloved KOTE*, and every single member of the audience for coming. Again, sorry to have drowned you all under my overworded slides. RASKB will shortly put the video of the disaster on its YouTube channel**, and I'll add the link here as soon as it is available.

If you really want to take your time and read every line of every slide, the full presentation is here:

Shaped by its considerable natural assets, Seoul turned into a major city by negating them in a constant fight to tame a nature capable of major destruction but unable to cope with urban expansion. In this young millennium, this war has evolved into a love story, and Seoulites are reopening an intimate dialog with waterways that even under their concrete prisons kept drawing Seoul's maps, telling the city's history and their own stories. Yet urban planners must avoid overflowing it with storytelling. If Seoul has no future without curated natural spaces, this shapeshifter of a city will always require unscripted parts.

Introduction: The city's lungs and bloodstream
1) The Way of Water vs The Highway of 'Progress'
2) The Way Forward (?) - 'Recreation', 'Renaissance', 'Emotion'
Conclusion: Storytelling vs the Unscripted Seoul

I'll drop below
a few not to wordy samples from this 56-slide trainwreck:

On Seoul's 'dong' / neighborhoods / villages, shared water, time capsules...

Angukdongcheon, the visitor that stopped at KOTE's door the other night 

Seoul choked by concrete (things have improved since, looking forward to fresh data from the Seoul Institute

An extreme climate, major changes and challenges

On the menu: The city's lungs and bloodstream / The Way of Water vs The Highway of 'Progress' / The Way Forward (?) - 'Recreation', 'Renaissance', 'Emotion' / Storytelling vs the Unscripted Seoul

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Download 'Seoul VillageS', the free ebook.
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* always heartwrenching to see KOTE's old odong namu / princess tree down following that recent storm, but its baby is doing well, and that's a reminder that water brings life, destruction, and communities closer together.

** RASKB YouTube channel:
   Video of the disaster:

Saturday, July 1, 2023

'Flow and order - Seoul waterways and other urban stitches'

Very pleased to announce that on August 8 I'll be giving a lecture to Royal Asiatic Society Korea on Seoul waterways and other 'urban stitches', as I like to call elements that make our city more wholesome and awesome.

Looking forward to seeing you in KOTE next month (see details below)!


TITLE: 'Flow and order - Seoul waterways and other urban stitches'

DATE: Tuesday. August 8, 2023. 7:30PM (Seoul)
VENUE: KOTE in Insa-dong (Insadong-gil 7, Jongno-gu, Seoul)


If humans have tamed Seoul’s mountains and streams, these natural assets keep acting as great dividers and connectors, at the same time hindering and enabling this shapeshifter of a city. Urban planners have realized how key they are for Seoul’s competitiveness, but each time they decide to put a spotlight on them, whole neighborhoods can be revived or destroyed. As Seoul grows more ambitious visions and narratives around these urban stitches, unscripted parts must be left for the city to breathe and evolve, for new stories to emerge.


A French author and conceptor born in Paris in 1967, Stephane Mot first met Seoul in 1991, as a young ESSEC alumn at the French Embassy’s economy section. Without ever disowning fiction, satire, and nonsense, this expert in strategy and innovation (serial startup survivor, strategic advisor…) is naturally drawn to what comes next and often writes about innovation, urbanism, politics, culture, or societal trends.
His fictions include ‘dragedies’ (bittersweet-going-on-pungent fictions) and ‘La Ligue des Oublies’ (The League of The Forgotten, a tribute to soccer legends who never existed). ‘Seoul Villages’, his first collection of short stories in English, is now available in Korean and will be adapted into short films; these Seoul urban legends are also a form of revenge on, his non-fiction blog devoted to a city of which he’s walked through every single neighborhood.
Stephane and Seoul have been haunting each other for over three decades.

To register to the event: 'Flow and order - Seoul waterways and other urban stitches'

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Download 'Seoul VillageS' (12 fictions, free ebook).
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Friday, May 12, 2023

Korean edition of the short story collection 'Seoul VillageS' ('서울 마을들')

After the English and French editions, you can (re)discover my collection of short stories 'Seoul Villages' in Korean (Korean only and bilingual English-Korean editions).

Here are the links to read / download the 4 free ebooks on Google Play Books (also on Neovel for the English and French editions) - your reviews and feedback are welcomed:

  • Korean Edition:
    "서울 마을들: 귀신동 그리고 다른 서울 도시 전설들"
    "서울과 서울의 수많은 골목길들을 향한 일련의 연애편지" (코리아 타임즈)
    "열렬한 도시주의자가 지은 초현실의 세계 속으로의 다이브" (KBS 월드 라디오)
    귀신 든 이 동네를 벗어나려고 들지 말고, 저기 초목을 뽑아내겠다고 괜한 헛수고도 하지 말 것이다. 그리고 한국 무당들 중 가장 포착하기 어렵다는 이 무당을 한 번 잡아보려는 가당치 않은 생각은 아예 접기 바란다: 죽음이란 그렇게 뿌리칠 수 있는 것이 아니다. 그러니 이 소설적 서울에 당신의 영혼을 순순히 맡기도록. (KR)

  • English Edition:
    'Seoul Villages: Guisin-dong and other Seoul villages'

    "A series of love letters to Seoul and its many alleyways" (The Korea Times)
    'Let's dive into the surreal world built by this urbanism enthusiast" (KBS World Radio)
    Don't try to escape this ghost neighborhood, don't waste your energy tearing off that plant, and don't even think about catching Korea's most elusive shaman: you just can't shake off death. So let this fictional Seoul claim your soul. (EN)

  • French Edition:
    "Seoul Villages : Guisin-dong et autres villages de Séoul"
    "Une série de lettres d'amour à Séoul et ses nombreuses ruelles" (The Korea Times)
    "Plongeons-nous dans le monde surréaliste bâti par ce passionné d'urbanisme" (KBS World Radio)
    "Rarement je me suis plongée avec autant de bonheur dans un livre écrit par un Occidental sur la Corée! Stéphane Mot voit la Corée de derrière, la Corée des invisibles. La Corée des esprits et des chamanes, Séoul, ses rues, son âme et ses âmes qui me touchent tant. Bravo !" (Juliette Morillot) (FR)


  • Bilingual English-Korean Edition (left page in English, right one in Korean, read in double page display mode for more comfort):
    "서울 마을들 (Seoul Villages - Bilingual Edition): 귀신동 그리고 다른 서울 도시 전설들" (EN/KR)

Read 'Seoul Villages' online on Neovel: 


Seoul Village 2023
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Download 'Seoul VillageS', the free ebook (12 fictions).
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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Justice under the rug

Unsurprisingly disappointed by politicians of both sides who decided to sweep justice under the rug: the Democratic Party by failing to deliver LEE Jae-myung to justice, YOON Suk-yeol by chosing closer ties with Tokyo over justice for the victims of Imperial Japan's forced labor.

At least, a higher proportion of Korea's Democratic lawmakers chose the high road than their American Republican counterparts: whereas the GOP overwhelmingly supported Trump when he faced a well deserved impeachment. only a tiny majority helped the Korean Trump preserve his immunity. Across the country, a vast majority was in favor of LEE's arrest, but the party made the wrong decision, and had the gall to pretend that democracy was under attack because for the first time, an opposition leader was investigated and issued an arrest warrant, whilst LEE precisely seeked party leadership for the sole purpose of eluding justice one more time! LEE even selfishly stole the safest seat of an incumbent in Incheon to guarantee his personal survival, letting the rest of the ship sink during the elections... 

As we've already seen, this is clearly not the party of KIM Dae-jung and ROH Moo-hyun anymore, but a group controlled by a clique that betrayed their ideals of justice and democracy, and only care about their own interests. I wish the party had seized the opportunity to cleanse their ranks from these thugs. Now lets hope the truly progressive side, that proved it still existed during this vote, will gain enough momentum to reform the party, restore decency, and build a more sustainable, inclusive platform.

Of course, Korea's right remains another kind of mess, but internal debates are a bit more public, even if YOON Suk-yeol managed to get his guy on top for next year's election (not sure KIM Gi-hyeon is a future-proof leader, but the selection of THAE Yong-ho in the Supreme Council sends an interesting message to Pyongyang elites: you can make it in the South if you reject the North Korean regime). If YOON decided to make the most of his lameduckhood to push for reforms that are not necessarily popular, he just played a very risky and unpopular card on the forced labor issue: the victims will receive a financial compensation, but paid by Korean companies that benefited from the controversial 1965 treaty, and without any apology from Japan.

From the start, YOON's eagerness to appease Tokyo seemed heading in this kind of direction. I'm all for diplomacy and warming ties with our neighbors, but I'm not okay with eluding key issues. Again, the victims of Imperial Japan's institutional Forced labor and sexual slavery never received any official apologies from any Japanese government (non binding declarations by individuals? yes, but that's not the same, and I'm not even talking about Shinzo Abe's anti-apologies - see "Decoding the Abe Statement: "why apologize for crimes Japan never committed?"). 

 YOON Suk-yeol was not elected for his obsolete Miltonfriedmanian program but to restore some sense of justice, particularly following the PARK Geun-hye scandals and the MOON Jae-in betrayals. Eluding resolution can't be the solution.

Seoul Village 2023
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Download 'Seoul VillageS', the free ebook.
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