Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Yongsan itch and the Sajik balm

One up, one down. Seoul speeds up for the redevelopment of Yongsan 4, and puts the brakes on Sajik 2.

We've known for a while* that the future Yongsan Park would be surrounded by high rise structures. After burning their fingers on the doomed Yongsan IBD project, authorities decided to offer their all-you-can-build gifts to speculators in smaller packages, wrapped in green. Here, at the Hangangdae-ro - Seobinggo-ro interesection (Hangangno-dong), a tentative 'Yongsan Parkway' serves as an environmental alibi for more 30-40+ towers:



In Jongno-gu, a far less popular - and far less tragical** - "drama" has also been running for years: the redevelopment of what I call Sajik Heights, the hilly neighborhood nested between Sajik-ro / Sajik Tunnel, Space Bon, and Gyeonghuigung. I've walked its alleyways countless times, and even wrote a short story about Kim Ki-chan meeting my fictional Kim Mudangnim there (the great photographer also used to live in Sajik-dong).


A pigeon, a hanok, a hilly alleyway, Inwangsan - Sajik Heights in 2009

For a decade, Sajik Heights has been preparing for the transformation, and Lotte Castle eventually won the right to build the New Town.



As far as 'urban continuity' goes, it looked consistent with the Gyeonghuigung Xii (Gyonam New Town) rising from the other side of the tunnel / hill / (now almost totally obliterated) fortress wall... 

But Seoul city seized a debate over modifications to stop the process***. Among the landmarks to be protected (let's hope in a less destructive way than nearby Dilkusha****), the 1906 house where Josephine Eaton Peel Campbell lived. I visited that place at the top of the hill, around the time it was used as an office by local residents. It seems to have never been used for the purpose the Campbell estate sold it, which was to promote the education of young girls, in the tradition of Campbell herself, the founder of Baehwa (girls' schools and women's university in Pirun-dong).

Residents are now wondering what's best for them, particularly after witnessing what happened in the vicinity: Gyonam? newtonized. Seochon? bukchonized. So what for Sajikistan?

Whatever happens in the future, something of the old neighborhood shall survive. Or evolve. 

Anyway, it would be nice to see something decent next to a potential UNESCO Heritage site (Yeol still working hard on the Sajik-dan revival*****).

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* see for instance "Yongsan park - fake forests and real estates" (Feb. 2011)
** if a person died in Yongsan, no casualties for the only tragedy I witnessed when I lived in Sajik-dong, a hanok fire back in 2009.
*** "사직2구역 재개발 추진 7년…110년 된 캠벨 사택 어쩌나" (JoongAng Ilbo 20160413)
**** less forsaken than 5 year ago (see "Sajik Heights and micro-hanokization"), the building seems to have undergone serious change in the name of 'preservation' 
***** rites have been performed for a long while, and the restoration helped as well (see "Sajik-dan enshrined, Naeja-dong revived ?")

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