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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SeMA Nowon: better than Gauguin

Never say never again: one year ago, the Seoul Museum of Art announced that it would distance itself from big shows with big international names (see "SeMA to block blockbusters"), but 2012 ended with the Tim Burton extravaganza (talk about big fish), and yesterday*, The  Korea JoongAng Daily detailed SeMA's plans for the year to come, starring a major Paul Gauguin exhibition to be held June-September 2013 in Seosomun branch (talk about a summer blockbuster).

It's great, particularly for a large public who never had the occasion to see really significant works from an artist I love, but I was much more interested in updates regarding the future SeMA North Branch in Nowon-gu.

I always wondered what would come out of this site, still hidden by tall fences last time I passed by, last month. That's a very good location, between Junggye and Hagye stations, surrounded by massive apartment blocks and just in front of a key commercial hotspot: Outlet 2001 +, HomePlus (formerly HomEver, formerly Carrefour Junggye), the second one after Nowon Station, on the other side of Danghyeoncheon. Perfect to reach for new visitors, and to boost Northeast Seoul's cultural life. 

SeMA North Branch (SeMA Nowon? SeMA Junggye?) will be inaugurated in July 2013, and officials quoted in the article mentioned "crafts, design, and architecture" and "public art" as the main "verticals" for the new venue. We also received the confirmation that the Main Branch (SeMA Seosomun) would propose more international magnets. It is very important to couple each event with a more local one: I sincerely hope many visitors to the Tim Burton show stopped by the wonderful exhition of Seoul pictures on the ground floor (see "A thousand villages, a thousand memories - Seoul Photo Festival 2012"). Bonus: that expo was free. But of course, that's not the reason why I visited the Seoul photo festival expo three times, sharing twice very emotional moments with fellow visitors I'd never met before, but who had personal stories with certain pictures or photographers.

The potential repositioning of SeMA Nam Seoul (South Branch, near Sadang) is not very clear, but I guess the editorial line will remain focused on more intimate exhibitions.

What about SeMA Gyeonghuigung, that big space in the most prestigious of all locations, but an empty shell most of the time?

My dream would be a SeMA KIM Ki-chan, a living museum devoted to photography, built around the collection of Seoul's - and probably Korea's - all time greatest photographer, the man who captured the soul of the city, of its people, of its alleyways. Furthermore, Kim Ki-chan grew up just hectometers away from the site, in Sajik-dong.

That would be great: permanent collections of great Korean photographers, temporary exhibitions, and as tribute to the people of Seoul KIM Ki-chan revealed for generations to see in their daily lives, a large space devoted to photos taken by anonym citizens.

At a time when human relations grow virtual, at a time when the whole city is captured thousands of time a day by its citizens and visitors for the whole world to see on social networks, Seoul has a duty to get real and to make something of all its fantastic cultural assets.

Seoul Village 2013
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* "Gauguin exhibition set for Seoul museum" (KJD 2013/01/23)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On The Korea Project, Northtalgia, and the DaimlerChrysler Syndrom

Picture yourself in Korea, about 20-25 years after the reunification, and try to imagine what it means, what it takes to get it right.

And please, get John Lennon out of your head: don't "picture yourself in a boat, on a river, with tangerine trees and marmalade skies", and don't "imagine all the people, living for today... imagine there's no countries". Try to be as realistic as possible.

Now in order to be realistic, you not only need to study scenarii for Korea, but for the whole region as well. Even China (especially China?) won't be the same player as the one we're used to today. And how will the much needed* regional truth and reconciliation process have evolved (if it ever begins)? Start with international relations and you're sure to end up with "kaleidoscope eyes"...

Hopefully, IR only came in the third and final phase of The Korean Project. This program led by David C. KANG (Director, USC Korean Studies Institute) and Victor CHA (Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies Korea)** tackles the strategic challenges towards Korean reunification and beyond, and the first two phases focused on functional aspects (eg education, transitional justice, nation building, health, agriculture, environment, military, law and order...), pooling experts on each issue with experts on North Korea, leveraging experiences from all over the world.

Today, Phase III*** confirmed the difficulties added by international relation challenges to an already utterly daunting and complex task. And each contributor could only give his best shot at what would be the reactions from his own country, reflecting only a fraction of a wide array of mindsets. But precisely, the voices of the moderates could be heard, and the probably utopic compartmentalization (a debate not polluted by pseudo-nationalistic interferences) could happen.

Of course, not all issues could be raised in one day (and I plead guilty for phagocytizing, with my silly remarks, an indecent part of the time devoted to Q and As), but the event hosted by The ASAN Institute was a success, and not only because US Ambassador to Korea Sung KIM said hi, or because there were moments of "Détente" in spite of the tense international context:

"Détente" time at the Asan Institute: The Korea Project Part III with David C. KANG, PAN Zhenqiang, Victor CHA, CHUNG Jae-ho, Evan RAMSTAD (photo © Stephane MOT) 
Chinese opinions on Korean reunification are not that common, and the voice of PAN Zhenqiang, a Retired Major General of the People's Liberation Army, counts a lot. Yes, there were more references to Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zeming than to Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping. Yes, we're still tempted to read between the lines, but all players can be suspected of having their own interpretations, and today, there were more questions about nuances and vocabulary than there are shades of grey: what's your "threshold" to intervene? what does "moving first" mean? what do you mean by "move"? what could trigger/justify/legitimize a movement? what's your definition of involvement/interference/intervention? how do you distinguish "regime collapse" and "state collapse"? what does threatening China's "core interests" mean? "Do you love your mother"? (thank WOO Jung-yeop for that moment of Détente - no reference to any motherland, mind you)

So China feels Korea's pain, "being a divided nation itself". General PAN clearly referred to Taiwan (by the way: "China's formula of "one country, two systems" may have some exemplary value"), but didn't go into the details regarding what Reunited China would cover ultimately. Anyway, China wants "an independent and peaceful unification" for Korea. "Independence" to a certain point: the UN Security Council has a role to play (along with China and its veto rights). And "Peaceful" means not only an absence of conflict but also a clear consensus between both Koreas (the North Korean regime being of course totally independent from Beijing). "Unification" means that Korea was never united before, and thus never an independent entity. And oh: "China is the great stakeholder in the peninsula".

Since General PAN declared that the government followed the mainstream, "serious research community", and didn't condone the more exotic ones, I raised the Northeast Project issue: I'm glad to hear that, but I wish we could hear the mainstream, "serious research community" out loud, if not denouncing the impostures, at least standing for serious records. No answer to that question, but to the question "how mainstream is the view, within China, that Korea shouldn't get reunited if you consider how Vietnam turned its back to China", he answered: "we have a lot of amateur strategic analysts, not to be taken seriously". And as you, Dear Reader, well know, the same could be said about this excuse of a writer, who defines his blogs as "Weapons of Mass Disinformation".

SOEYA Yoshihide spoke very frankly about where Japan stands, the cost of unsolved regional feuds, and the gap between how much Japan could help and what it will probably be allowed to do (beyond serving as an ATM and financial supporter, that is). I renewed my wish that Japan seized the opportunity and led the much needed truth and reconciliation effort across the continent: instead of being cast to the periphery of a region geopolitically redrawn following the reunification, Japan could become the undisputed leader in diplomacy and strengthten its positions at all levels (political, economic, social). The shortest and surest way to become the solution is to stop being the problem but of course, that's not on top of Shinzo Abe's agenda, not his idea of "moving first" or "acting as a leader".

I've already said that Russia is, among the 6 parties, the player who objectively has the best cards to play nowadays. Everybody agrees on the need to improve key bilateral mutual understandings to pave the way for as smooth a transition as possible: South-North, USA-China, Japan-Korea, and that leaves Russia with the opportunity to be the key facilitator, the only (potentially) true win-win-win-win-win-win player. Russia knows well that the political and meteorological climate change can totally boost the Eastern half of its own nation, and that common sense will lead reunited Korea to manage risk by balancing its strategic entry points to the continent between China and Russia.

Unsurprisingly, Alexander VORONTSOV highlighted the importance of railways and pipelines, or the potential of Rason container terminal. But he's also very much concerned about military questions, and insisted on the importance of a potential border issue between Russia and reunited Korea, stating that it would definitely help if South Korea recognized the borders as agreed between Russia and the DPRK well ahead of the reunification.

One should hope Seoul already studied the fine prints in all the treaties between the DPRK and other nations. But one must take into account the fact that the Republic of Korea recognises itself as the only legitimate government in its constitution, that not everybody recognises the DPRK as a nation.

Victor CHA insisted on having everybody's vision about legitimacy and alignment for good reasons. The ROK is very much aware of the precautions needed, but never questions its own legitimacy to lead the reunification effort. The "UN" scenario described by SNU's YOON Young-kwan could be messy indeed. According to him, conservatives would rather follow the German model, and progressives the "Hong Kong SAR" model (step by step, containment to prevent mass migrations). But as WOO Jung-yeop put it: "will we have the luxury to chose a model?", and "we don't know what we want". South Korea cannot lead a reunification effort tomorrow if it can't even reach a consensus on key principles today.

I don't feel comfortable with the way the reunification is presented as the simple integration of the North to the South economy or democracy. As if it were an acquisition and not a merger. We all know this won't be a merger of equals at the demographic or economic level (let's cut the DaimlerChrysler hypocrisy), but the people and the regions of the North must be respected and involved in the process as stakeholders as important as the people and the regions of the South. Besides, 60 years of history should not be obliterated, and just like Ostalgia bloomed in Eastern Germany, some positive form of "Northtalgia" may become a cultural asset (beyond dark tourism).

Furthermore, you can't put the failure of the North Korean regime on the people of North Korea. South Korea and the international community also failed to achieve reunification so far. David KANG accurately repeats that South Koreans should never come with a "we won, you lose - we're smart, you're dumb" mindset, and I think the time has come to say "we both made mistakes, we may not agree today, but we must work to make sure that in the end, Korea wins as a whole".

Which role for the North Korean diaspora, beyond the defectors to South Korea? The Chosen-seki / Chongryon / Mindan game in Japan looks much less complex than the case of China, particularly following massive mixed marriages along the Yalu river. Nationality issues will be very tricky, and in my worst "Hanschluss" scenario, Beijing could leverage porous borders to impact self-determination ballots in the medium to long term. If international coopetition were not enough, don't underestimate inter-regional tensions: North Korean regions are not less valuable than South Korean regions, and everybody should rejoice to see this rich cultural heritage reunited, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jeollanam-do started complaining about Ryanggang-do getting all the subsidies. And Korea being Korea, I'd recommend a moratorium for all real estate issues, and a protection from the Chaebollization of the North.

There should be no confusion: this is a reunification, not a unification, not the creation of a nation that never existed before. And reunited Korea should be a model republic and democracy. But I raised the importance of how the country will define itself and particularly how it will be named.

Korea, of course. But that's in English. And it's not like Germany, who could keep the "Deutschland" denominator (BRD/DDR). The North uses "Joseon", the South "Hanguk", both "uri nara". Anyway, "Dae Han Min Guk" seems the obvious official name for the republic, and the flag should remain the Taegeukgi, but both the name and the symbol should refer to the whole nation and to the roots of democracy and independence during the occupation, certainly not to the victory of the South over the North.

I'm looking forward to the final products of The Korean Project, and I hope it won't stop there. Reunification has already started, it's a major project and an ongoing process, and beyond the report, the public as well as the authorities will need to visualize threads. We passed the stage where saying "we're working on reunification, we're investing money in it" is enough, and we must move to the stage where everybody can follow the process and say: wait a minute, this specific issue doesn't seem to be advancing, we need answers and outputs. And to have someone to blame or to praise, even if it's just the usual six suspects.

Seoul Village 2013
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UPDATE 20130123: North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to nukes later in the day...

* see "We reject as false the choice between revisionism and nationalism - for a Global Truth and Reconciliation Network"
** special mention to The Korea Foundation, key sponsor of a project very consistent with its mission
*** The Korea Project Part III
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies
Opening remarks: David C. KANG (Director, USC Korean Studies Institute), Victor CHA (Chair, CSIS Korea), HAHM Chaibong (President, The Asan Institute of Policy Studies)
Session I: Reactions from Japan and Russia (moderated by D. KANG)
- Paper authors: SOEYA Yoshihide (Director, Institute of East Asian Studies, Keio University), Alexander VORONTSOV (Head, Department for Korean and Mongolian Studies and Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences)
- Discussants: Leif-Eric EASLEY (Ehwa University, The Asan Institute), Robert KELLY (Pusan National University), LEE Hawon (Chosun Ilbo)
Session II: Reactions from China (moderated by V. CHA)
- Paper authors: PAN Zhenqiang (Senior Advisor, China Reform Forum and China Foundation for International Studies, Director, Research Institute for Strategy and Management), ZHU Feng (Deputy Director, Center for International and Strategic Studies, Peking University - NB: not present today)
- Discussants: CHUNG Jae-ho (Seoul National University), Evan RAMSTAD (Wall Street Journal)
Session III: Reactions from South Korea (moderated by D. KANG)
- Paper authors: CHOO Jaewoo (Professor, Chinese Foreign Policy, Kyung Hee University), YOON Young-kwan (Department of International Relations, Seoul National University)
- Discussants: Bryan PORT (Deputy Director of Strategy, UN Command-Combined Forces Command-US Forces Korea), WOO Jung-yeop (The Asan Institute)
Roundtable on future steps (V. CHA and D. KANG)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Beyond Lost Compasses and New Compassions

copyright stephane mot
"Last cig", a shot I took
a couple of years ago
in Nowon-gu
Last year I was saddened by statistics showing that more and more elderlies died alone in Seoul and today*, Korea JoongAng Daily reported touching stories of senior citizens who, even if they were not lonely, were either too weak or senile and eventually found dead in rice paddies not far from their villages. This article on the boom in missing reports for seniors (+30% last year) shows how the phenomenon has become a priority in certain communities, particularly in Korea's top 5 "super-aged" localities (in Chungcheongnam-do: Nonsan, Buyeo-gun, Geumsan-gun, Cheongyang-gun - in Jeollanam-do: Goheung-gun).

If Korea is ageing at an alarming pace**, impacts are particularly felt in rural areas with dwindling populations, but not only in the most remote places where last generations of farmers survive in dire conditions. Small communities and villages simply cannot cope. On one end schools are closing, and on the other there are no infrastructure for the eldelies. 

Ageing society is already a challenge in Seoul, but the capital city can leverage all its assets to get prepared. It's not only a matter of hardware or infrastructures: for instance, middle school students are trained to understand the handicaps of old age through simulations involving heavy suits, wheelchairs, altered environments... Senior citizens are tested very regularly in senior welfare centers or even in the subway:

Across rural Korea, solutions will have to be smart, and network-based, there again at the human as well as at the technological level: location based services can be developped, but scarce resources and energies will also have to be pooled and shared, beyond families and local communities.

It's not just a matter of welfare: Korea must be reunited at all levels, and its senior citizens have a major role to play in the future.

Seoul Village 2013
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* "In aging society, more elderly reported missing" (Korea JoongAng Daily 20130115 - yes, again the KJD, following last week's "New homes, old stories for Seoul mayor")
** see previous posts related to demographics in Korea, including the old "The Incredible Shrinking Korea"

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rise Of The Nork Zombies

Fear of the Yotta Virus has driven scores of Seoulites to Teheranno, where e-plastic surgeons work night and day to remove brain enhancing implants that just weeks ago were still all the rage.

Now rage can best describe the carnage caused by the unlucky "Upgraded" people who got infected. Yesterday again, across a capital under siege, hordes of "PC Bang Vampires" went on "boot-them-all" rampages, while Bluetooth-enabled "Noraebang Heubyeolgui" spread around North Korean propaganda songs, milder mutations of the virus resulting in less lethal K-pop hybrids. Since all fingers point to Pyongyang for the cyber-attack, local media have coined the more generic term "Nork Zombies" for the phenomenon.

Ahn Cheol-soo accepted to head the antivirus effort, after confirming that he was one of the last implant-free decision makers in South Korea. The founder of AhnLab said it was not only about security, but also about the integrity of his hairdo, even if last generation implants are much more discreet than the bulky “Frankenstein Android” or “Head Top iBrain” gizmos introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014.

Kim Jong-un was last seen in public with a suspicious swelling on his neck. If some pundits speculated that he just wanted to perfect the resemblance with his grandfather by growing a goiter, most observers suspected a 2G implant, probably from Russian technology. The question is: does it have the capacity to reach the Cloud?

Stephane MOT – Agence Fausse Presse 2013

Seoul Village 2013
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New homes, old stories for Seoul mayor

A couple of weeks after the inauguration of the new city hall*, local authorities announced that Mayor PARK Won-soon would move in March 2013 from his residence in Hyehwa-dong (which had to be abandoned because of the renovation of Seoul fortress**) to a controversial place in Bukchon: a hanok built during the Japanese occupation by relatives of an infamous collaborator. Even if it later belonged to BAEK In-je, the founder of Baek Hospital, some people contested the Mayor's decision.

Today, Korea JoongAng Daily publishes an interesting focus on this two-story hanok, its past and future ("An old, unusual hanok gets a new life"), where we also learn that PARK will eventually move in later than scheduled, next September.

Personally, I have no objection to that move, provided the whole story is properly taught. I'm glad Seoul's top officer will welcome hosts in Jongno-gu's second largest hanok, a rare display of Korean traditional architecture. And after all, wasn't the old City Hall itself - now a library - built by the Japanese?

Furthermore, if you take any luxury hanok built for a Korean VIP during that period and particularly in this neighborhood, chances are the owner was palling around with the occupants anyway. I keep that in mind each time I pass by Bukchon's most touristic hotspot.

Following a "gentlemen's agreement", the Japanese occupants would generally live south of Cheonggyecheon, except of course for the government, or the land claimed over Gyeonghuigung in Shinmunro area. And unsurprisingly, "literary" Seochon was a bit more rebel than Bukchon, an enclave of power between Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung***.

I recently mentioned a similar controversy about the name of a palace changed under Japanese rule ("Deoksugung or Gyeongungung?"), and I think the best way to prepare the future is to be as transparent as possible about the past, and to reveal both sides of the coin. If you should boycott all places with a troubled past, most world capitals would be empty.

Some day, spotlights will focus on what happened after the occupation, which ill-gotten assets finished in which hands under which conditions. I'm not sure everybody's ready for that level of transparency.

Seoul Village 2013
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* see previous posts about this landmark, and "Seoul Tsunami City Hall, The Other Korean Wave"
** completion was previously expected by 2014 ("Seoul Fortress Walls (re)completed by 2014"), but now it's by 2015 

**** see "Seochon's Dead Poets Society (YI Sang, YUN Dong-gu)"

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Magok District: SIM City as in "Seoul Intra Muros"? Alleyways as in "Seoul Inter Muros"?

I know, Gangnam Style is so 2012, and here we are, starting 2013 on the same side of the river.

Same side, but different neighborhood: Gangseo-gu doesn't look as sexy as PSY's lair, and the Lotte Mall Gimpo Airport as bling bling as Cheongdam-dong boutiques. Yet here as well, plastic surgery is underway on a grand scale.

Seoul's westernmost district is the place where I first set foot in Korea. In 1991, "Kimpo Airport" still ruled as Korea's main international gateway*, and since Seoul Subway Line 5 would only be inaugurated four years later, everybody reached the capital via the airport road (now Gonghang-daero); a rather unspectacular journey through a peri-urban to sub-urban landscape featuring fields, farms, scattered low-rise buildings, and one plastic dummy traffic cop supposed to scare the fast and the furious away.

Last spring, I taped this boring scene from a cab on the same road, but in the opposite direction:

Between Balsan Station and Songjeong Station (Subway Line 5), all you could see for 2 km were crane tops emerging behind these grey construction fences. Halfway, Magok Station remained closed. Like the yet-to-be-inaugurated Magongnaru Station, a couple of blocks to the north, on the parallel Seoul Subway Line 9 (between Yangcheon Hyanggyo Station and Sinbanghwa Station). The two ghost stations - three if you take into account the fact that Magongnaru is also on the AREX line - lie in the middle of the future Magok District, one of the biggest and least advertised urban developments in Seoul.

You would think a project covering 0.6% of the capital city (3.6 million square meters in Magok-dong and Gayang-dong) would get some attention, but Magok has been droning below the radar for years.

To be fair, there was a decent embryo of buzzlet back in 2005, when the MRC (Magok Research and Development City) was announced, and the buzzwords of the day thrown in for good measure ("green", "U-city", "hub", "international business complex", "knowlegde industry complex"...). As if local authorities had suddenly realized that they'd been sitting on a goldmine for too long, like: everybody's building a global hub in this country except us, and we've got this vast piece of land in Seoul intra muros, next to an international airport, with a unique air-water-land combo**. Let's build and they will come. All we have to do is to make sure we've got dwellings, businesses, industries, and a "Central Park" - foreigners love central parks. 

So everything was set: between 2007 and 2014, SH Corporation would erect yet another successful new town in the country of the perennial real estate miracle.

But even before Lehman hit the fan, no one seemed to care. Pangyo New Town was still the media darling, and Incheon city marketing Songdo, a similar concept on steroids: 6.1 M square meters vs 3.6, the sea vs the river, Incheon Airport vs Gimpo Airport, Gale Intl + Posco vs SH..., and an even bigger "Central Park".

We've already seen how Songdo struggled in the past***. And Magok District was not even the priority for Seoul Metropolitan Government, which had first to launch the Digital Media City, or more recently the International Finance Center (not to mention yet other fishes to fry, such as the Gongneung Future Industry Technology Complex).

But MRC was more than a mere background task. It had an important part to play in the Seoul 2020 Vision, and in 2008, an international design competition generated spectacular proposals for the future Magok Waterfront, reviving the hope to see things happen in spite of the gloomy context. Two years later, development plans had been revamped, paving the way for a more consistent construction kick-off in 2011. I really felt something big was coming last september, when I chatted with the head of Seoul Business Agency before the conference for the 10th anniversary of the DMC project****. He confirmed the city's determination for Magok, and his confidence seemed genuine.

Last November, Seoul Metropolitan City started offering parcels for Magok Industrial Complex: the future research hub (IT / Information Technology, BT / Bio Technology, GT / Green Technology, NT / Nano Technology...) will cover a fifth of the district and a 2007-2031 timeframe. Seven companies were later selected for further discussions, and the first really big media bang came on December 13, when LG Group signed for 6 of his research units and 14,000 researchers by 2020. Note that this chaebol had already been involved in this future "smart city" through its LG CNS subsidiary, designing a "Smart Green Control Center" in partnership with IBM.

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering and E-Land were listed among the other hot prospects; not exactly poster boys for the above mentioned technologies, but very significant players nonetheless, particularly considering DSME's growing ambitions in defence. Now the focus is on signing an international player to confirm this excellent first draft.

Generally speaking, if you're into IT-media-telecom convergence, there are worst places in the world to open a R and D unit than this part of Seoul. Mapo's Digital Media City and the Guro Digital Industrial Complex are quite close, and the LG-SMG deal already includes at least two gems: LG Electronics and LG Display (these guys will probably meet their LG Telecom friends in the DMC more often than indie start-ups in Guro but that's their problem).

Note that in the fierce coopetition among major business hubs in Korea and particularly across Sudogwon region (Seoul - Incheon - Gyeonggi-do), the "Seoul Intra Muros" dimension in itself has become again a key factor of differenciation, particularly to recruit talents who would rather stay in the capital than move to a distant "greenfield new town". E-Land highlighted this HR premium in its own Magok's plus column... where "cost of land" certainly ranks higher than "culture" (with all respect due to Yangcheon Hyanggyo).

I won't repeat my usual pitch about the non-zero-sum-game of Korean new towns (see for instance "Wet eyes for wetlands and urban mirages"), but we're not just talking about business here. People will live and breathe in Magok District, not just work. There's enough space and time to get it right, and I'd like Magok to achieve something different, something more ambitious in the noble sense of the term than the DMC which, architecturally and street-wise, could almost be any business district in any big city. 

On this rendering where Seoul Housing Corporation mercifully banned very high rise buildings and added more green (BTW will they dare destroy the beautiful tree line that somewhat managed to survive in the video above?), Magok District almost looks like any New Town:

Even more so when you look at the ad:

Guess what: Seoul is not a new town. Furthermore, a neighborhood needs a soul of its own, must belong to a certain continuum, and souldn't be overly scripted: if urban planners do all the storytelling, how can citizens hear their own voices, write their own stories?

And Seoul needs alleyways. By "alleyways", I don't necessarily mean the last capillaries irrigating the actual "Seoul Intra Muros" ("Sadaemun", the original city surrounded by its fortress), but also the kind of inclusions that extend Seoul, the places where the city can freely and randomly stretch, grow more complex, and reach deeper, these intimate scars where your own mind can't help but wander.

This so special "Seoul Inter Muros".

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* The earthwork was just starting for the merger of the two islands that would eventually host Incheon Airport (we used a ferry to reach them and a bus to go all the way to Eunwangni). Reminder: Gimpo Airport is not in Gimpo city, Gyeonggi-do, but within Seoul limits, in Gangseo-gu, a district that happens to border both Gimpo and Incheon cities (not to mention Bucheon and - via the Banghwa Bridge - Goyang, also in Gyeonggi-do).
** Air: Gimpo Airport / Water: Han River + a vertical streamlet potentially upgradable into a marina or else / Land: SW Gyeonggi and Incheon entry point + major highways + Olympic Expressway + Subways...
*** and succeeded as well (see "Songdo on the world map (Green Climate Fund)", and all posts related to Songdo)
**** about this event, see "Korean culture or Hallyu, Cultural contents or discontents"

Friday, January 4, 2013


A very very great kid passed away.
Knowing him was a gift. Now, feeling his joy and love remain in us, that's pure happiness.

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