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Monday, February 21, 2011

Seoul Through Pictures 6

The sixth volume of the adventures of Seoul is now available : "Seoul Through Pictures 6 : Globalizing Seoul (1981-1990)"* covers the transition towards democracy, the Olympic moment, and the acceleration of urban carnage (commoditization of tombstone apt complexes).

Of course, most pictures have no artistic value whatsoever** - the concept is to keep track of urban and social changes across Seoul. The City History Compilation Committee of Seoul launched this unprecedented public initiative in the early 2000s, and soon afterwards, local authorities started to understand the value of photography (ie focus on Cheonggyecheon history, or a comprehensive photo program across all city districts, both under Mayor LEE Myung-bak...).

The series is getting livelier and more consistent with each new volume. And the next issue will cover the Seoul I first met 20 years ago. I really regret not buying the first volume ("Seoul Through Pictures 1: The Modernization of Seoul and its Trials (1876-1910)) when I had the opportunity. Back then I quickly browsed through the pages and recognized too many pictures I'd already seen... Now it's too late : impossible to find a copy.

Personal message : if anyone has a spare copy of that Volume 1, I'd be very interested in purchasing it.

Among my favorite picture books about Korea is a special edition celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1948 constitution : much less carefully edited than the Seoul in Pictures series but nonetheless very instructive, precisely because of its political biases. The ads are also fun to watch because all the chaebols start communicating to international audiences. The one featuring the first Kia assembly lines tells a lot of the ground covered over the past 40 years...

Seoul Village 2011

* you can order it online at
Seoul Selection.
** if you want to be touched by great Korean photographers, try Kim Gi-chan or Choi Min-sik.

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