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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

That was 2015

So what struck you as the most important moment of 2015?

The hacking of Universal Studios in February? Most baekduologists now agree that KIM Jong-un wanted to enjoy a sneak peek at the plans of the attraction based on the movie '50 Shades of Grey', for the adult section of the famous theme park.

CHO Hyun-ah's prison break in April? The nation is still wondering how the Korean Air heiress could fool the medical staff, pretending to choke in an episode now known as The Pretzel Fury.

The Abe Statement in August? We all remember how the Prime Minister of the newly restored Empire of Japan apologized for not being able to resuscitate Hideki Tojo.

So many things happened in 2015*... Yet we haven't forgotten 2014. And we will never forget its most heartbreaking moment ("Korea Upside Down")...

Because that's the only way of not getting crazy, we will not forget to celebrate life in its full absurdity either. 

Seoul Village Season IX is about to start. Get ready.

And Happy New Year!

Except maybe for you, Jong-un:

Seoul Village 2014
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* for a full list month by month, see my miserable blogules "Happy New Year 2016" (in French: "Bonne Année 2016")

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Interview (no, not that one)

As you well know, The Interview was eventually released on Christmas. But did you know that you could listen to it for free?

If you have one hour to spare, I invite you to listen to the conversation Colin Marshall and I had in a Seoul cafe a couple of months ago.

We both share a love for roaming cities and writing about them, but only Colin is blessed with an uncanny gift for maieutics, a truly clear mind, and a spellbinding voice. If you enjoy that interview as much as I did, praise him. And that annoying gibberish of mine? Don't try to put it on a hot summer day, a night unnecessarily shrunk by insignificant World Cup games, or even my Frenchness.

So take a cup of coffee, and come sit down with us.

"Notebook on Cities and Culture's Korea Tour: Shapeshifter with Stephane Mot"

Seoul Village 2014
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Love In The Time Of Ageing Korea: 'My Love, Don't Cross That River' - 'Old Partner'

Released a couple of weeks ago, Jin Mo-young's old-love-umentary 'My Love, Don't Cross That River' echoes Lee Chung-ryoul's 'Old Partner' (2008), and seems to be following the same success in theaters.

Both movies feature very old couples nearing the end of their lives in rural Korea. 

'My Love' tells the final moments of a 76-year-long marriage (Jo Byeong-man is 99, Gang Gye-yeol 90):

'Old Partner' adds a 40 year-old cow to form a very moving menage-a-trois in Bonghwa-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do. You can't tell who will die first between this stubborn farmer and the animal he keeps pushing beyond its limits, while in the next field a younger man uses a mechanical plow.

A bit too K-melodrama-ish a way to tell the story of a disappearing Korea, but was there any better way of capturing "Love In The Time Of Ageing Korea"?

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Monday, December 1, 2014

GTX, meet Sinbundang Line

Among the many railway projects presented one year ahead of the Mayoral elections (see "If you ain't broke, fix it: Seoul, Welfare and Railways Deficits"), the Northeast-Southwest diagonal seems to be reaching a consensus between local administrations and the government*. According to its promoters, the cost could be significantly cut - by KRW 5 trillion! - by using existing railway paths, and by sharing infrastructure between the Sinbundang Line and the GTX-A Line in the heart of Seoul.


According to the latest proposal (see map below), the common Sinbundang-GTX section shall link Dokbawi Station (Line 6 - Bulgwang-dong, Eunpyeong-gu) to Sinsa Station (Line 3 - Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu). Little surprise here:
  • As expected, the first station to pop up in Pyeongchang-dong valley is at the Sinyeong-dong Samgeori. I hope the tentative name "Segeomjeong Elementary School" will be shrunk to "Segeomjeong", the closest landmark.
  • As expected, one stop is added in Seochon on the other side of the Jahamun Tunnel, along Jahamun-ro. That's at Kyungbock High School in Cheongun-dong.
  • As expected, the lines stop at the existing stations of Gyeonbokgung, Gwanghwamun, and Seoul Station.
  • But instead of following the Jungang Line via Seobinggo Station (or Dongbinggo) - Ichon Station - Yongsan Station, the section between Seoul Station and Sinsa Station passes by Noksapyeong. I like that, because that's the opportunity to cover a gap in the map. But Noksapyong will be the only station in a stretch that, as the crow flies, takes at least 6 km. If from the GTX perspective, there should be as few stops as possible, it would be completely stupid to build a new railway along this axis without adding at least one stop. I strongly suggest Huam-dong, where a lot of projects are already under way.  Yes building a new station costs a lot, but this is a simple case of urban planning 101, check the map. A connection with the Jungang Line could be also added (for instance at Hannam Station).
At each end of that half-new, 8-station section, GTX and Sinbundang shall go their own ways:
  • From Sinsa Station (South):
    • Shinbundang Line: the extension from Gangnam Station to Sinsa Station, initially planned for 2018 included Nonhyeon and Sinnonhyeon stations (respectively lines 7 and 9). Will it be the case for the subway and not the GTX, or will these connections be scrapped altogether?
    • GTX-A shall reach directly Samseong Station (Line 2): here too, no connection to line 7 and 9. Nice gift for the coex.
  • From Dokbawi Station (North):
    • GTX-A shall reconnect to Line 6 at Yeonsinnae Station, the station next to Dokbawi! Of course, Yeonsinnae is a much bigger hub, also connected to Line 3, but what a contrast with the situation between Seoul Station and Sinsa Station!
    • Shinbundang shall reach Samsong Station (Line 3, Goyang) via two new stations: "Shindo Middle School" and "Jingwan Middle School", at the Western end of Eunpyeong New Town (Gupabal Station at the other end). Shindo lies in the Southern half, at the feet of "Bukhansan Eunpyeong Hanok Maeul", Jingwan in the Northern half. Clearly, the aim is to capture a big chunk of the new town traffic that have saturated Subway Line 3 and Tongil-ro from the beginning (typical example of the poorly planned project - see my previous posts on new towns).
The latest map - Chosun Ilbo 20141202
("신분당선·GTX(수도권 광역급행철도), 鐵路(철로) 같이 쓴다")
Whatever the outcome of this project, it's always fun to see how the various constraints play (topography, urban planning logics, cost, politics, speculation, transportation divide...).

Seoul Village 2014
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*see for instance "서울시 “국토부에 ‘신분당선 서북부 연장선-GTX’ 노선공유 제안”" (DongA Ilbo - 20141126)
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