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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Seoullo 7017, and more roads to Seoul

Seoullo 7017 opens tomorrow at 10 a.m. for the public, and at 8 p.m., PARK Won-soon will officially inaugurate the pet project that was to be his launching pad for the 2017 presidential election.

Of course, PARK Geun-hye's impeachment changed the calendar, and Seoul's Mayor didn't last long in the race. But on election night, he managed to hijack MOON Jae-in's podium on Gwanghwamun Square with a mink dance followed hours later by more praise for his fellow school alumni, as part of a call for the new friendly government to support Seoul's future urban plans.

Of course, many projects have already been launched, and Seoullo (formerly known as Seoul Highline / Seoul Arboretum / Seoul Station 7017 ...) was only part of an impressive collection announced two years ago (see "Urban Regeneration: 27 Projects For Seoul").

Seoullo night fever. Where's the disco ball? #Seoullo7017 (Seoullo Blue Night

Furthermore, countless events have already been planned for 2017, culminating with the first Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism (SIBAU 2017), which will also highlight Donuimun Museum Village, still under renovation (reminder: that was the eatery hotspot initially planned for destruction, next to Gyeonghuigung, to make room for Gyonam New Town's park).

But the city wants to push further in all directions, old and new, such as: 
. a car-free Sadaemun (within the old city walls),
. a cultural hub around Sejong Cultural Center,
. a prolongation of the very successful Gyeongui Line Forest Park all the way to Hangang,
. more urban regeneration in Haengchon-dong (NB that's around Dilkusha, on the other end of Gyeonghuigung Xii / Gyonam New Town)
. ...

A clear focus on 'Gangbuk' vs 'Gangnam', but the latter has been overly supported over the past years, from subways to the COEX-Jamsil hub. As if on cue with the regime change, the city is suddenly announcing 1.34 million more square meters of office space in 53 disadvantaged neighborhoods (Suyu, Jongam, Myeonmok-dong...), regardless of the impacts it could have on a market already facing oversupply... not to mention the impacts on Seoul's cityscape, because urbanism rules would be broken to boost F.A.R. all the way up to 800%, and to allow high rise buildings... 

So let's see how the dialog between City Hall and the Blue House evolves. And let's hope they reopen the old projects of subway lines in underserved areas before the next mayoral elections (a classic, regardless of the mayor's political color).

Meanwhile, why not walk along Seoullo? You'll notice an installation by Hwang Ji-hae featuring 30,000 shoes, a tribute to the old shoemaker's tradition on Yeomcheon Bridge, where you can visit the Oh Shoe Museum. It overlooks the soon-to-be-reopened Seosomun Park on one side, and the railways on the other.
  • See all previous posts related to Seoul Station 7017 (PS managing labels and hashtags would be simpler if they stopped changing names all the time)
Seoul Village 2017
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A new MOON Jae-in?

As expected, MOON Jae-in claimed Cheong Wa Dae with a very comfortable margin even without gaining ground beyond his base, and AHN Cheol-soo failed to hold the center.

As feared, the embarrassingly extreme HONG Jun-pyo finished second, confirming how the ultra-hardcore-conservative line remains a strong political force in the country. YOO Seong-min fought with honor, but reformers need a more charismatic leader to prevail, and to save the right.

To the left, SIM Sang-jung made her case with brilliance and humor, and her moderate voice is more likely to be heard and to bring positive change in the future than the usual radical activists.

In general and except for HONG, the debate was more gentle. This could continue even further with people like AHN Hee-jung.

Now Korea truly needs to move away from polarized politics, and the new president will have to show the way, to foster innovation across politics, society, and the economy. Dialog and innovation being not MOON's forte, he will have to evolve, and to surround himself with not just the old farts he promised jobs in the administration.

Here's how I concluded a piece I wrote last week for Asialyst ("Corée du Sud : la politique reprend ses vieilles habitudes"):
"The winner of the election will be judged by his capacity to revive the economy and to defend the nation in front of rather peculiar characters (Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, Donald Trump, Vladimir Poutine…), but also and mostly to reunify South Korea with itself by leveraging last Winter's formidable democratic movement.
If elected, Moon will have to become the uniter he has yet to prove he can be. This majority-less assembly seems a rather sound base to prevent the usual pendulum swings. After all, this assembly already proved it could successfully work in a president-free nation, reaching consensuses on issues as tricky as budget or the impeachment process.
Which brings us back to the core debate initiated during the 'Miracle of The Han People': we can't wait until the 2020 parlementary elections to advance on key issues demanding cool heads, like the revision of the Constitution, or the eradication of corruption in the judiciary system.
It would also be a good opportunity to push an idea that is not yet on the agenda, but would considerably strenghten democracy and depollute this great quinquennal show: switching to a two-round presidential election."

Last time I saw MOON on Gwanghwamun Square was under sadder circumstances (ROH Moo-hyun funeral in 2009 - "A Yellow Sea for Roh Moo-hyun")

Seoul Village 2017
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