Thursday, April 21, 2011

Seochon, Sejong Village, or what ?

Now officially protected from reckless redevelopment, Seochon area is preparing for its cultural rebirth. All the ingredients are there, but a marketing battle seems to be brewing over the brand. How to name the place ?

"Seochon" echoes the village West of the Gyeongbokgung, an axis we've already discussed and a waterway about to be reopened. There could be some confusion with Seocheon-gun in Chungnam, and some confusion with Bukchon : Seo means West and Buk North, but "cheon" means stream and "chon" village.

Like Gahoe-dong on the other side of the royal palace, it would be unfair to pick a dong name out of the hat : the 600 hanoks are scattered across a dozen neighborhoods, each one with its own characteristics (Naeja-dong, Chebu-dong, Nuha-dong, Nusang-dong, Pilun-dong, Ogin-dong, Tongin-dong, Hyoja-dong, Changsang-dong, Tongui-dong...).

I often refer to the area as "Chebu-dong" because that's the central dong, but that's wrong. Technically, most neighborhoods belong to the two "administrative dongs" of Sajik-dong and Hyoja-dong, the former being maybe more suitable since it's associated with a major royal site (Sajik-dan), and a clear destination West of the Gyeongbokgung. Hyoja-dong touches the palace walls, and is more associated with the North and the presidential palace (even if Cheong Wa Dae belongs to Sejongno-dong and the administrative dong of Cheongun-dong).

Recently, some residents have been pushing a "Sejong Maeul / Sejong Village" label, probably because King Sejong was born there : a plate commemorates the location of the hut where the great man was delivered, following the tradition depicted at the nearby National Palace Museum of Korea. But I'm not sure the commoditization of the Sejong brand is such a good idea : this "Sejong Village" sounds like an annex to Sejongno, not a place with its own identity.

Since the whole area grew along the branches of the soon to be reborn stream, why not stick to Seochon ?

Seoul Village 2011

see other Seochon related posts, including "Stop The Hanok Genocide... And Stop Revival As Reenactment" and "Baekundongcheon / Gwanghwamun-gil - A River Runs Through It"

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