Thursday, October 24, 2019

Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2019 - Collective City (also resilient and walkable)

Seoul is infinitely more walkable and pedestrian friendly than a few decades ago, but during the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, you can even hop from one World capital to the other* without leaving its center. For this second edition, two main venues have been added to the Biennale's horizontal axis, Seoul HOUR and the Seoul Museum of History joining the DDP, Sewoon Sangga, and Donuimun Museum Village.

Six months after the pre-biennale symposium and the Seoul HOUR inauguration (see "Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture, Seoul Biennale 2019 Symposium"), the usual suspects showed up on opening day at Dongdaemun Design Plaza:

"Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism opening ceremony @ DDP Seoul.
Park Won-soon, Dominique Perrault, Seung Hyosang, Francisco Sanin" (@theseoulvillage - 20190907 -
The whole Barnum was supposed to move a few hours later to Donuimun Museum Village, but a last minute guest star crashed the party: because of Typhoon Lingling, all opening day festivities were eventually held in Zaha's landmark. Still, I decided to visit the Cities Exhibition on the same day, even as Lingling kept clearing her throat:

I had a great time exploring the whole show without the crowd, and intended to finish with Ulaanbaatar, a city that moved me so much three years ago (see "Welcome to Ulaanbaatar Village"). Unfortunately, when I arrived, its 'ger' was being dismantled at the last moment: located on the main building's rooftop, it could have been blown away. If this precaution turned out to be unnecessary, it somehow hammered down even harder (without any nails) the core messages from a city facing tremendous challenges, but at the same time able to leverage the amazing flexibility of its architecture. This could well be the poster image of a resilient city:

"Ulanbaatar's ger at Seoul Biennale Cities Exhibition unfortunately had to be temporarily folded yesterday because of Typhoon Lingling. If the typhoon failed to deliver its expected punches, this episode illustrates at the same time the flexibility of Mongolia's iconic architecture marvel, and urbanism challenges faced by its sprawling capital.
#SBAU #DonuimunMuseumVillage #gerhub" (@stephanemot 20190908 -
Go enjoy the countless shows, conferences, and other events (including the parallel ones) across the capital, and don't forget to pass by Seoul Museum of History, with its excellent 'Collective Market City' exhibition highlighting the key role markets played in the city's evolution from its very beginning:

"Collective Market City exhibition at Seoul Museum Of History. SBAU Live Projects with Jang Youngchul, Tomaz Hipolito, Young Wookoh, 000간, Roh Kyung, Oh Jaewon, Bang Jeongin" (@stephanemot - 20190909 -

Hurry up - you only have a couple of weeks left to enjoy SBAU 2019 (until November 10):

SBAU 2019:

Seoul Village 2019
Welcome to our Korean Errlines! Follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter, follow me on Instagram.
Bookmark and Share

* yes, like last time, Pyongyang is there (this time at the Seoul Hall Of Urbanism and Architecture):

"North Korea meets South Korea at Seoul Biennale Pyongyang expo. Seoul Madang, Seoul HOUR. SBAU" (20190910 -

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Moon Landing - The Cheong Wa Dae Curse

Is MOON Jae-in losing it? Is the Cheong Wa Dae curse eventually catching up with him? How much is this weird leadership crisis affecting Korea's future? And to start with, am I sounding a bit too dramatic?

Last year (see "Checks and balances"), I singled out "three disturbingly noxious axes" around which MOON's very character was being questioned:
  • is he being too much played by KIM Jong-un
  • is he letting ideology too much undermine the economy
  • is he taking too much liberty with separation of powers?
Since then, the least one could say is that MJI did nothing to clear mounting fears around these axes. Worse, the way he's coping with CHO Kuk scandals is now threatening his whole presidency to its very core.

MOON's controversial decision to stop sharing intelligence with Japan as a retaliation to Shinzo Abe's trade war on Korea perfectly illustrates the malaise around all three axes:
  • North Korea? Clearly the biggest winner of this decision (not to mention China or Russia, also pleased to see the ROK-US-Japan tripartite alliance weakened in a most sensible part). South Korea has the most to lose as KIM Jong-un's most exposed neighbor, and MOON appears once more as someone eager to seize any alibi to undermine his own country's security in favor of the North.
  • The economy? By retaliating on political and military dimensions, MOON plays ABE's hand, and makes it even more difficult to quickly solve an already tricky trade conflict that impacts key parts of Korea's badly weakened economy. If ABE started the trade war as the one shooting himself in the foot ("Japan v. Japan - Artificial Belligerence v. Artificial Intelligence"), MOON not only follows suit, but does so with a bazooka.
  • Democracy? Pulling out of 'GSOMIA'* grabs all headlines when MOON needs a diversion from the CHO Kuk scandal. The decision came out of the blue (house), without a proper debate on the impacts.
If this looks bad, what to say of MOON's obstination to support CHO Kuk, his Justice minister nominee?

Every day brings new revelations about CHO's misdeeds. The man who posed as a champion against corruption managed to bring back memories of the two most corrupt characters in the saga that led to PARK Geun-hye's impeachment: like him, CHOI Soon-sil erected an outrageous system to illegally favor her daughter's studies and career, and like him, WOO Byung-woo brought shame on SNU Law School by bending law to destroy justice.

The controversial CHO Kuk
CHO's nomination for justice seems doomed, yet MOON Jae-in keeps supporting him as stubbornly as he does for economic advisers that have like himself no clues about economics, and accelerate a downward spiral ahead of the upcoming global downturn.

The case of CHO is much more serious, and existential for MOON, but all in denial, he doesn't seem to realize what's at stake. Everybody knew he was weak on North Korea and the economy, but failing on the very values that brought him there, on justice, on fairness, on transparency... this is the ultimate betrayal, and the president is already losing his base: recent polls show that a majority of youth have now a negative opinion of him. And Korea University students as well as Seoul National University students are starting to demonstrate following the footsteps of Ewha students, who started the movement that brought down PARK, and set the tone with apolitical approaches, focusing on wrongs to be fixed (CHOI Soon-sil's daughter benefited from illegal support at Ewha, CHO's daughter at KU).

The onus is also on lawmakers from the ruling party, who will have to face the consequences of enabling this mess (if not to face history the way GOP congressmen will for enabling Trump)... but no one wants to be the catalyst before the elections, and the scapegoat for the rout. 

No political leader, left, center, or right, seems to stand out as a credible solution for the future. Could a dangerous populist emerge from the ashes of burned illusions? Korea deserves so much better. It proved so beautifully that it could rise to the highest ideals of democracy.

Of course MOON Jae-in doesn't risk impeachment for defending one rotten apple, but his capacity to run the country could be seriously challenged if he loses all support, further undermining an already weakened nation. So let's hope the President sees reason before it's too late.

Seoul Village 2019
Welcome to our Korean Errlines! Follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter, follow me on Instagram.
Bookmark and Share
* General Security Of Military Information Agreement

Monday, July 1, 2019

A small step for CVID, a giant leap for Trump's ego... and North Korea's propaganda

ICYMI, from Kim-Xi to Kim-Trump-Moon, one week without crossing red lines.
=> Watch as a Twitter moment ('DMZero Progress')

'Strategic patience 2.0: Kim Jong-un tells Xi Jinping he'll be patient with Trump..." (20190622 -
'Kim Jong-un post-summit blues: "ain't no Sunshine when Xi's gone" (20190622 -

'P.S. I love you. Donald' (20190623 -

'Will Trump visit the DMZ next week? Will he meet his pen friend Kim Jong-un?' (20190623 -

'Exclusive - what Donald Trump wrote to Kim Jong-un' (20190624 -
'So we've got the answer to the first question: Trump will visit the DMZ. For the second one (Trump Kim Summit III?): Kim Jong-un's mention of DJT's 'courage' after reading his (RSVP?) letter could be a clue...' (20190624 -
'Unsurprisingly, Trump tweeted that he'd like to shake hands with Kim Jong-un at DMZ.... Expect a Moon Jae-in moment when both walk for a second on the North Korea side.' (20190629 -
'We should call them #TrumKimHandshakes, not #TrumpKimSummit. #AllFoamNoBeer' (20190629 -

'Trump strategy at the DMZ:
1 shake hands with Kim Jong-un
2 say hello
3 chat about the weather and my beautiful tweets
4 step on the other side of the MDL
5 photo ops
6 zero progress, #NorthKorea #winning

#ArtOfTheDealapidation' (20190629 -
'Watch out, Jared! Here's Harvanka - @USAmbROK' Ivanka Trump - Harry Harris (20190629 -
'Please, don't forget to wash after your courageous VX handshake!' (20190629 -
'Trump: Obama was begging to meet Kim Jong-un. In his dreams. Trump Kim Summit' (20190630 -
'#MoonJaein qualifies the dismantling of #Yongbyon #nuclear facility as the beginning of 'Irreversible' (#Denuclearization). But it wouldn't add a C or an actual I to #cvid' (20190630 -
'To the journos at #CheongWadae: does #Trump's US to Korean translator wear a #MAGA hat? Sure sounds like she does.' (20190630 -

'Choppers heading north... Trump Kim Summit' (20190630 -
'Shortly after 5~6 choppers left from downtown (above), at least 4 flew from #Yongsan. #MoonJaein joined the #DMZ ahead of #Trump for #TrumpKimSummit' (20190630 -
'The spaghetti western moment when #Trump & #KimJongun will walk to the demarcation line...' (20190630 -

'Trump realizes how close to the DMZ Seoul is...' (20190630 -
'Trump receives a golf gift. Not something to club Kim Jong-un to death with, mercifully.' (20190630 -
'Trump abducted' (20190630 -

'Kim Jong-un interviewed on the other side' (20190630 -
'We'll invite him right now to the White House' - Trump about Kim Jong-un (20190630 -
'#YTN caught the threesome #MoonJaein #KimJongun #DonaldTrump' (20190630 -
'#Trump confirmed he'll invite #KimJongun to the #WhiteHouse. With a #MAGA hat or a #Trump2020 cap? Anyway made in #China...' (20190630 -
'#KimJongun totally running the show. #Trump's passive body language speaks volumes. No plans beyond shaking hands and inviting KJU to DC.' (20190630 -
'OMG. #Javanka in the room with #Trump & #KimJongun!' (20190630 -
'I love the smell of VX in the morning' (20190630 -
'What a Barnum. Even by #Trump standards. Journos not contained at all, positioned at the last moment, 3 heads of state thrown in the newsfeed frenzy...' (20190630 -
'#Trump #WhiteHouse's guestbook: #KimJongun's signature to join among others, #MBS', #alSisi's... Make Amerika Great Again
#ArtOfTheDealapidation' (20190630 -
'Well isn't #TuckerCarlson the Secretary of #Trump Defense on Fox?' (20190630 -

'Talks restart. #Nuclear proliferation doesn't stop. #KimJongun #winning #ArtOfTheDealapidation #TrumpKimSummit' (20190630 -
'And they're back' (20190630 -

Seoul Village 2019
Welcome to our Korean Errlines! Follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter, follow me on Instagram.
Bookmark and Share
Add this page to your favorites

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Magok updates

Last month, ULI organized a presentation of Magok District, starting with an update by SH Corporation, and a visit of the recently inaugurated Seoul Botanic Park, the most significant addition to the puzzle since our 3-part, May 2018 focus (Framing Magok (Part I - Location) / Magok's horizontal verticals (Part II - Cluster) / Magok's lifespace (Part III - Environment)).

'Definitely a greenhouse, and the effect that comes with one. Inside Seoul Botanic Park / 서울식물원. Magok District Seoul' (20190528 -
As expected (see the second part of that focus), bringing big players in innovation proved much easier than building a diverse and open startup ecosystem, which requires among other things a vision, planning, and free urban spaces for creativity to bloom. SH decided to devote a stretch along the waterway to a more open neighborhood (명소화거리). Let's hope it will remain low rise, not overly scripted, and free from the usual storytelling and franchises. 

Like the MICE strategy, this happens very late in the process. I couldn't help but think about Canal Walk. Cornerstone hot spots like this new street or the Magok Square should be ready from day one, with the rest of the city revolving around them, not a just final touch supposed to add some sort of soul to a big development.

As I put it in the DMC-Songdo parallel, particularly for a New Town, 'sequence is of the essence'.

'Urban planning sans urban planning. This is where Magok District's 명소화거리 will rise. A potential cornerstone for the whole neighborhood, unfortunately added very late in the project, like Sondo's CanalWalk. Hope it will be low rise, not flashy, but sustainable' (20190528 -

Seoul Village 2019
Welcome to our Korean Errlines! Follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter, follow me on Instagram.
Bookmark and Share
Add this page to your favorites

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Gisaengchung - BONG Joon-ho's existenchial Parasite

BONG Joon-ho's 'Gisaengchung' ('Parasite' / '기생충') is perfectly written, filmed, and played. At times a bit too much, but only because BONG happens to be a great author, a great filmmaker, and a great director.

Before getting to that, let's push a couple of things out of our way: first, I won't give away any spoilers, and second, this is more a dark comedy than a tragicomedy. Not a new genre (very distant echoes of IM Sang-soo's 'The Housemaid', or KIM Ki-duk's '3 iron'), but a brilliant Korean movie with a universal reach. BONG proves he remains a league of his own with a unique, very theatrical object (think Feydeau meet 'Arsenic and old lace')*, and before all else, the heck of a cinematographic masterpiece. 

Is this truly BONG's chef d'oeuvre? his best movie ever? It doesn't supersede 'Memories of Murder' as my favorite Korean movie yet, but certainly made it already to my top 3**. I can't tell for sure: unlike for 'Snowpiercer' or even 'The Host', I had such great expectations for this one (even before it got the Palme d'Or in Cannes), and there's so much to take in at once.

Even as you watch Gisaengchung, you feel this narrative and visual overload. BONG forces you to realize that the gimchi will somehow hit the fan, to want to know, among all possible worst case scenarios, which one will prevail, and to enjoy the ever darker humor first permeating, then overflowing this over-the-top gem.

That may be it: an overpowering trainwreck feeling that makes the movie work, and at the same time makes you want to slow down to appreciate each and every detail. You're enjoying it too much, to the point you can't enjoy it enough. And as soon as the movie is over, you want to watch it ten more times. Lucky Darcy Paquet, who watched it seven times to deliver the English subtitles***... and cursed Darcy, who had to keep everything all to himself until the movie was released!

So kudos to BONG Joon-ho the author, for keeping us under his spell, and for delivering another powerful social satire, But also kudos to BONG Joon-ho the filmmaker, for implanting haunting images and other sensorial stimulations inside our brains (best rain pandemonium ever, best olfactory effects ever). And kudos to BONG Joon-ho the director for getting the best from an outstanding cast.

CHOI Woo-sik (Ki-woo), SONG Kang-ho (Ki-taek), JANG Hye-jin (Chung-sook), PARK So-dam (Ki-jung)
Of course, BONG can thank SONG once more: his favorite actor SONG Kang-ho proved again that he was a genius at playing dumb in a thousand different and creative ways. 

But what to say of the women in this movie! Yes, the versatile LEE Jung-eun steals the show, like the multifaceted Miranda Richardson did in Spider, but did she really need that Ri Chun-hee impersonation, or was that just BONG's special bonus for Western audiences? And if the confident PARK So-dam and the insecure CHO Yeo-jeong were absolutely perfect in their roles, I was totally bluffed by JANG Hye-jin's performance as Gisaengchung's unsung cornerstone, between this stinky basement full of life, and that cold, bright mansion. Too early to tell if the young JUNG Ziso is the new Doona BAE.

If the male side looks weaker, that's because the roles demand it, starting with CHOI Woo-sik's or JUNG Hyeon-jun's. Yet LEE Sun-kyun portrayed a credible Chairman PARK.

Gisaengchung poster
The French poster for Cannes Festival

So go watch this brilliant epic. And let yourself get infected.

Seoul Village 2019
Welcome to our Korean Errlines! Follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter, follow me on Instagram.
Bookmark and Share
Add this page to your favorites

* so theatrical, they even invited PARK Jeong-ja's voice to the trailer ** even if I can't kick anyone out of my "Seoul Village Movies"
*** again, Darcy, you had a Deborah Smith / Han Kang moment with this one!

'Unexpected director's cut: Agnes Varda welcomes you to KU Cinematheque' (20190531 -

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

How Naruhito exposed Trump's ego trip, and Abe's agenda

Donald Trump will probably remember his State Visit to Japan as a triumphant ego trip: we saw him play golf with his favorite losing partner Abe Shinzo, lift the first ever President Cup (designed for him: YUGE, sumo-sized), become the first Foreign head of state to meet the new Emperor... but what I will remember forever is The Naruhito Statement.

Not a word, but a silent, immobile stand, that should resonate much louder than it has so far.

For six long minutes, a significant section of his first encounter with Trump, Naruhito left his guest alone. Everything was carefully timed and planned, as the intricate red carpet patterns, and an official's intervention confirm.

So what happened? Donald, Melania, Naruhito and Masako arrive together on a wide podium, where they pause to listen to the national anthems. Then Trump moves ahead, and the other three stop where the official instructs them to, only a few meters after leaving the podium, just to symbolically lead him out. The POTUS joins another, smaller podium, where he listens to a military march, then moves to salute troops, then walks along another red line at the end of which he reconnects with the Emperor to meet civilians.

During these six surreal minutes, Trump is either alone, or accompanied by military staff. The only music playing is military. As if a military parade had been especially prepared for him alone. 

DJT is a Commander in Chief, and the Emperor of Japan should remain apolitical, but the whole process turns the moment into a ridicule, onanic one for the former, and a strong political statement for the latter: what better way to express Naruhito's strong support of Japan's peaceful constitution, against Abe and Nippon Kaigi, who want to destroy it?

In the same immobile move, Naruhito managed to make his guest look like an egotistic dictator, and Abe like a dangerous fool. Simply brilliant.

'Barf bag, anyone? Alt-Right meet Nippon Kaigi

- Donald Trump Abe Shinzo / Shinzo Abe' (20190526 -

'Trump to Abe Shinzo: US-Japan alliance is 'ironclad'. At the personal level, make that 'gold-plated, 7-iron-clad' (20190528 -

As if to nail it even deeper, DJT made the most of Memorial Day by praising a dictator: KIM Jong-un is right to criticize Joe Biden, I'm not bothered by his cute missile launches, and what a fantastic real estate potential you have, Dear Chairman!

'Say, Donald Trump, are North Korea's Concentration Camps the kind of 'prime real estate' you're looking for to lock up migrant kids at the US borders?

Your dictator friend could sure help you find Stephen Miller-friendly solutions to Make Amerika Great Again.' (20190528 -

John BOLTON and his fellow hawks have not conceded yet. And America's recent moves around Sasebo, theoretically meant to control the North Korea - Iran connection, could also facilitate a preemptive strike. The bloody nose scenario remains a tweet away.

One thing is sure: MOON Jae-in is out of the loop, and neither KIM nor TRUMP seem to trust him anymore.

Seoul Village 2019
Welcome to our Korean Errlines! Follow Seoul Village on Facebook and Twitter, follow me on Instagram.
Bookmark and Share
Add this page to your favorites

PS - from our twitterline (@theseoulvillage):

On the non-march of the Emperor:

'I wish Naruhito could brief about actual East Asia History, not the one he learned from Shinzo Abe / Abe Shinzo & ' (20190526 -

'Surreal military march played for Trump alone on a podium. Ego trip (20190527 -

'Pacifist, apolitical Emperor Naruhito stays away from military while Trump salutes them' (20190527 -

'Kudos to Naruhito for keeping his distances from militarism, turning the parade Abe Shinzo / Shinzo Abe prepared for Trump into  ridiculous ode to a dictator' (20190527 -

'Even weirder on this video, the almost 6 mns Trump was left alone with military march & review (starting around 2:30). Naruhito only rejoined him to meet civilians. A clear message for Japan's Article 9, against ABEIGNomicS / Nippon Kaigi militarism?
' (20190527 -

On the return of bloody nose:

'Bloody nose returns? US getting ready for preemptive strike against North Korea, including bunker buster capacity

(: Sasebo)' (20190526 -

'FYI this bunker buster is meant to bust Kim Jong-un, not to rescue Abe Shinzo / Shinzo Abe when he plays golf with Trump:' (20190526 -

books, movies, music