Abstract This paper examines an urban regeneration project in the Changsin-Sungin Area (CSA), Seoul, by drawing on the current debates on post-political urban policy. Adjacent to Dongdaemun Fashion Market (DFM), the K-fashion hub, the CSA is known for the clustered sewing factories embedded in residential housing. In 2014, the CSA was selected as a test-bed for the implementation of the new policy called the Urban Regeneration Programme (URP). This new scheme is publicly funded seeking continuity and civic participation in urban regeneration. The CSA-URP contrasts with previous schemes in Korea, in which private developers, with state support, were the main drivers of massive demolition and reconstruction. In order to promote participation, the city government has created an intermediary for public–private partnership and adopted the public contest for the distribution of resources. Significantly, this new model has shifted its focus of regeneration from housing to public space, from entitlement to participation, and from proprietorship to cultural capital. This has also raised new queries about whether the new model effectively promotes residents’ bottom-up participation or manages consensual atmosphere. By contemplating Seoul’s latest urban regeneration experience, this paper examines whether the CSA-URP offers corrective forces to capital-led and top-down urbanization or it depoliticizes the political. Thereby, the paper aims to contribute to the critical understanding of post-political urbanism. Introduction Since the early 2010s, there has been a shift in the focus of Seoul’s urban policy, from new town construction to village-making. In the last few decades, private developers, with state support, had undertaken massive redevelopment projects in Seoul. However, the new urban paradigm seeks continuity in urbanization with a strong emphasis on participation and public–private partnership. It is more concerned with preservation, progressive development, and invigoration of a locality rather than wholesale demolition and redevelopment (Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMGb), 2015). This policy transformation focused on participation and partnership is aligned with a movement towards ‘good governance’. In Seoul, this movement is largely influenced by the liberal leanings of the current mayor. It is, however, critiqued that good governance as part of post-political urban policy actually manages urban governance, by regulating dissensus (Swyngedouw, 2009; Lees, 2013). Paying attention to the debates on post-political urban policy, this paper looks into contestations over the management of governance under a village-making project in Seoul. The SMG has established an intermediary between the city and district governments and residents for pursuing partnership and arms-length administration and adopted a meritocratic public contest as a means to distribute public resources. By examining such governance technologies, this paper explores whether the new village-making effort can be seen as an alternative to capital-driven and top-down urban development or a post-political urban policy that depoliticizes the political. Specifically, the paper examines the efforts to regenerate the Changshin-Sungin Area (CSA), known for the sewing factories tucked in partially remodelled houses. These factories have long provided apparel to the adjacent DFM, which has become known as the K-fashion1 centre since the 2000s (Korean Culture and Information Service (KCIS), 2012: 100). In the 1960 and 70s, the early stage of industrialization in Seoul, garment factories combined with retailers’ shops mushroomed in DFM. These factories were reportedly sweatshops where labour, health, and safety regulations were violated (Bonacich and Appelbaum, 2005). In 1970, a young garment cutter called Jeon Tae-Il burnt himself to death in protest against the poor working conditions. Since then, regulations on factories were strengthened. In order to avoid tight legal control, many factories moved to the adjacent residential areas, including the CSA, where the ground and basement levels of houses were rented out as a factory space. Factory workers, who were usually engaged in overtime work, also rented rooms and houses near the factories. Thus many factory workers resided and worked in the CSA. In the 1990s, the sewing factories experienced a slowdown in business due to the emergence of cheaper labour in other parts of Asia. When DFM emerged as a K-fashion hub in the 2000s, however, the mass media and tourist guidebooks started to feature the CSA as an ‘old sewing village’ making the cutting-edge K-fashion. In 2014, the CSA was chosen as Seoul’s first test-bed for implementing the publicly funded participative regeneration programme, Urban Regeneration Programme (URP). The SMG, in order to promote public–private partnership and participation in the CSA-URP, invited citizens to win public funds. This public contest has shaken the conventional nature of participation in urban (re)development. Cultural capital, rather than property ownership and residency, has gained a new edge in entitlement to participation. Civic activists, artists, and cultural and social entrepreneurs who were able to excavate symbolic values from the neighbourhood’s historicity and to materialize them into concrete artefacts, activities, and places, have won funds. Thereby factories-cum-housing has been converted into workshops, offices, and amenities. The conversion of deteriorated space into affordable workspace might give them opportunities to stay close to one of the commercial cores of Seoul. However, is the CSA-URP able to address the economic circumstances that have led to the current deterioration of the CSA? Such deterioration is closely related to the liminal status of housing in the CSA, where the mixed usage of space for unregulated factories and housing has sustained both the neighbourhood and the cottage garment industry. Many CSA residents, especially house owners, factory workers, and factory owners-cum-workers, who are more concerned with improving deteriorated housing/factory conditions have become excluded from the project. Has not the CSA-URP been actually ruling out opportunities to talk about the precarious working and living conditions of the factory workers? With these questions in mind, this research explores the nature of participation under the CSA-URP rather than the project’s success or failure. The following examines first, the debates on ‘good governance’ and ‘post-politics’. Then, the paper analyses the workings of participation in the CSA-URP. Since 2014, when the CSA was assigned as the test-bed URP neighbourhood, policy documents and relevant media content have been collected and analysed for this research. Between 2014 and 2016, observation of neighbourhood meetings and public hearings organized by the municipal government was conducted. Focused interviews with twenty-five respondents were conducted between January and August in 2015. A wide range of interviewees was selected in order to reflect different voices and positions related to the CSA-URP. These interviewees include residents, factory workers-cum-residents, community activists and artists who participated in the project, public officials as well as residents who were indifferent to the project. Post-political urban policy in Seoul: towards post-politics? Urbanization is a ‘spatially grounded social process’, in which the confrontation of various actors with diverse objectives is configured in the forms of spatial practices (Harvey, 1985: 5). Thus, transformations in urban policy entail socio-spatial interrelationships. Focusing on the interrelationship between urban policy paradigm changes and socio-spatial changes, three different phases of urban policy in the context of western countries have been examined. Although, it is difficult to draw a clear line between these phases as well as multiple policy discourses might co-exist in one phase, it is insightful to investigate this series of the paradigms, because it elucidates a gradual shift towards post-political urban policy. First, between the 1930s and the 1960s, urban managerialism was a dominant discourse of urban policy. Urban managerialism refers to the situation in which key individuals called ‘urban managers’ determine land usage and the distribution of social goods and urban resources (Pahl, 1975). Here, social goods and urban resources include housing, land and other public resources. Urban managers initially referred to governmental officials, urban planners, and architects (ibid.). Later, the term has come to include landlords and estate agents engaged in real estate and financial sectors (Leonard, 1982)2. Urban managerialism elucidates the significant influence of charismatic leaders on determining the distribution of social and urban resources. Second, between the 1970s and the 1990s, urban entrepreneurialism was a general trend in urban policy. In the 1970s, Harvey (1989, 4) explains that undefined, unemployment, and fiscal austerity caused inter-urban competition for resources, jobs, and capital. This competition promoted an entrepreneurial turn among national and regional governments and the adoption of market rationality and privatization in the public sector (ibid.). Urban entrepreneurialism distinctively includes public–private partnership, in which governments and developers cooperate to attract capital, employment opportunities, and business communities as well as to construct promotional spaces for consumerism, lifestyle-shopping, and city branding (Harvey, 1989; Evans, 2003; Loftman and Nevin, 2003; Hubbard, 2006). This strengthened entrepreneurialism conveys a shift in the role of government, from being a provider of infrastructure and distributor of public resources to being a facilitator of capital investment. Lastly, since the 2000s, under the stronger alliance and collaboration between the private and the public sector, the focus of government has largely shifted from facilitation of contestation to management of governance (Žižek, 2002; Swyngedouw, 2009). This is especially so in post-industrial cities of western countries, where the alliance and collaboration between the private and the public sectors has gradually progressed to form a political realm without external foes. Furthermore, a discourse of good governance has rendered expertise and professionalism to become key requisites in the repertoire of politics, which has reinforced ‘consensual politics’ (Swyngedouw, 2009). The new emphasis on expertise and professionalism can provide policies with a certain sense of public accountability, making it possible to measure policy effectiveness (Tan, 2012). However, such measurement exercises can simplify thorny socio-political issues into a matter of knowledge-application and technical solutions. Furthermore, political philosophers argue that politics without antagonism is a liberal illusion (Rancière, 2001; Žižek, 2002; Mouffe, 2005). While traditional politics offers a space where dissensus and new claims are manifested and where ordered arrangement is disturbed (Rancière, 2001; Swyngedouw, 2009), consensual politics technologises and depoliticizes the process. Consensual politics is seen as the ‘post-political’3 ideal hinged upon private–public partnership, technocracy, entrepreneurialism, good governance, and various community empowerment programmes.4 Under such post-political condition, Swyngedouw (2009) observes that government advocates participatory governance supported by an assumedly ‘neutral’ scientific technocracy and professionalism. Under this neutral politics, there exist neither internal social tensions nor internal generative conflicts. Instead, the ‘enemy’ is always externalized and objectified (ibid., 612). In Korea, since the Korean War (1950–1953), authoritarian regimes’ main concern was the provision of housing and building of industrial foundations. For that, the government had unevenly distributed public resources to particular corporates and individuals. Especially, in terms of housing, speculative developers with the institutional support of the state demolished the existing housing and constructed new apartments, a symbol of middle class housing. Those individuals who could afford to purchase apartments bought them as a means to increase wealth. Although, the central government determined the allocation of public resources, this is different from urban managerialism practiced in the western context; the authority dismissed a governmental managerial role to pursue social welfare, equitable allocation and distribution of public resources. Basically, developmental and military regimes maximized economic development. Since the mid-1980s, the government actively took up an entrepreneurial role amidst intensifying economic globalization. For example, the central and regional governments created New Towns, Free Economy Zones, and large-scale transportation infrastructure (Choi, 2011, p. 282). In 1987, democratization movements led to the collapse of military regimes and civilian regimes emerged. Yet, state-led urban policy that facilitated the capital accumulation of construction companies and wealth-creation of affluent classes continued with meagre reformation. In 1997 when the Asian finance crisis hit Korea, Kim Dae-Jung’s government (1998–2003) faced an urgent task to overcome the economic crisis in addition to democratic reformation. Previously, military regimes used to utilize an economic crisis as a means to exercise strong governmental policies. However, civilian regimes were under pressure to reform the state-planned and developmental economy towards a more liberal one (Song, 2009, p. 2). As a result, Kim’s government steered a series of reforms, from regulation towards governance. Here, governance refers to partnerships between governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to implement social policies (ibid.). This partnership garnered political legitimacy to re-constellate markets, labour populations, industries, and urban spaces. Kim’s administrative principle, ‘co-development of democracy and market economy’ summarizes the direction of such reforms (ibid., 6). On the one hand, Kim’s administration pursued liberal social governing in order to produce self-sufficient individuals thereby overcoming unemployment and homelessness (ibid.). On the other hand, NGOs, partners of Kim’s government, emphasized the idealized liberal citizens free of subjection from the repressive state and their self-reliance (ibid.). The strengthened partnership between the government and NGOs nurtured the ideals of liberal citizens who could safeguard democracy and economic prosperity (ibid.). Ultimately, governance and public–private partnership fostered liberalization to secure economic deregulation. This paper proposes that this social governing, which emerged in response to the demand of democratization and economic crisis, should have led to a post-political turn in Seoul. How, then, has this post-political turn affected urban policy? A significant aspect is that this post-political turn took place in the absence of the so-called classical liberal welfare regimes. Liberalization has been translated into deregulation on real estate control without a preparation of appropriate supervisory measures. The government in deficit chose to vitalize real estate markets as a means to boost economic growth via tax reduction, deregulation on real estate transaction, and housing loan and liquidity support. By managing governance under the banner of public–private partnership, urban policy has deregulated land usage. This, combined with liberalization of financial markets, has strengthened the capitalization of land (Paek, 2005; Choi, 2009; Im and Kim, 2015). Since the 1960s, when Seoul became a ‘spatial machine’ to embrace a surge of rural migrants, developers led to the state of Tabula Rasa5 by demolishing housing and building high-rise apartment blocks (Cho, 1999, p. 128). Until the late 1990s, a wholesale redevelopment remained a dominant urban renewal strategy throughout Korea (Shin, 2009). Yet, the central government began to realign urban development and enforced a special law to ensure continuous and sustainable urban regeneration in 2013. Subsequently, in 2014, the central government proposed the Urban Regeneration Program (URP) and encouraged regional governments to apply for it. This new programme primarily aims to strengthen city competitiveness through community-making and modest spatial transformation (KURC, 2012). The SMG also conceived the new urban planning, which aims to preserve local landscapes and attractiveness rather than making Seoul ‘a republic of apartments’ (SMGb, 2015, p. 3). The incumbent mayor, the first mayor who has proclaimed ‘anti-developmentalism,’ has launched village-making as one of the key mayoral election pledges. Especially, the implementation of the URP in the CSA has been publicized as the first publicly funded village-making project. Given the post-political turn in the Korean context, the following scrutinizes the nature of participation under the CSA-URP. Changshin-Sungin Area (CSA): a sweatshop neighbourhood or a sewing village? The CSA is adjacent to Dongdaemun Fashion Market (DFM). The Market is filled with 30 shopping malls and 8000 retailers, stretched over 99,000 m2 (KCIS, 2012, p. 100). It started as a traditional market beside the eastern gate of the old capital city and it has been an important transportation hub as well as a bustling market place since the 15th century. After the Korean War (1950–1953), the area became filled with war refugees and rural migrants who looked for cheap housing, convenient for commuting to nearby factories and commercial centres. During the 1960 and 1970s, huge apartment-style factories combined with shop spaces filled DFM. Wholesalers and retailers who traded fabrics and clothes occupied the ground level of the apartments, while garment factories were set up on the second and third levels. Dongdaemun factories were, in reality, sweatshops. In 1970, workers’ strikes provoked public outrage about poor working environments and there was a push for tighter regulations. Yet, rather than improving working conditions of factory workers, many factories moved to nearby hilly residential areas, such as the CSA, to avoid governmental control (Figures 1 and 2). In several neighbourhoods, sewing factories began to occupy the basements and first floors of residential housing. Narrow hilly lanes were busy with motorbikes delivering fabrics and clothes between sewing factories and wholesalers and retailers at the market. As working hours were long, many workers chose to reside in the CSA. Till now, approximately 10 percent of the residents in the CSA are sewing workers. More than 1116 factories are reported to be in operation (Table 1). However, the actual number is estimated to be over 3000, given that many factories are operating without registration. Table 1 The total population, number of sewing factories, and number of sewing factory workers in the CSA Total population Number of sewing factories Number of sewing factory workers Changsin1-donga 6457 208 622 Changsin2-dong 10,800 638 1885 Changsin3-dong 8244 44 131 Sungin1-dong 7251 226 760 Total 32,752 1116 3398 Total population Number of sewing factories Number of sewing factory workers Changsin1-donga 6457 208 622 Changsin2-dong 10,800 638 1885 Changsin3-dong 8244 44 131 Sungin1-dong 7251 226 760 Total 32,752 1116 3398 aDong is the smallest administrative unit. (Source: Korean Statistics Information Service (KOSIS, 2015)). Table 1 The total population, number of sewing factories, and number of sewing factory workers in the CSA Total population Number of sewing factories Number of sewing factory workers Changsin1-donga 6457 208 622 Changsin2-dong 10,800 638 1885 Changsin3-dong 8244 44 131 Sungin1-dong 7251 226 760 Total 32,752 1116 3398 Total population Number of sewing factories Number of sewing factory workers Changsin1-donga 6457 208 622 Changsin2-dong 10,800 638 1885 Changsin3-dong 8244 44 131 Sungin1-dong 7251 226 760 Total 32,752 1116 3398 aDong is the smallest administrative unit. (Source: Korean Statistics Information Service (KOSIS, 2015)). Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Map of CSA (drawn by the authors) Figure 1 View largeDownload slide Map of CSA (drawn by the authors) Figure 2 View largeDownload slide A sewing factory in a residential building, CSA (Photo by authors, 2015) Figure 2 View largeDownload slide A sewing factory in a residential building, CSA (Photo by authors, 2015) Small-scale companies and independent contractors undertake different parts of the garment production process – designing, cutting, sewing, laundering and finishing. Generally, female workers are in charge of sewing and they typically work long hours, but are underpaid. Notably, sub-contractors produce women’s apparel, because the women’s apparel market is fast changing and volatile. Many of these sub-contractors are female workers working from home. Compared with other neighbourhoods, the CSA has predominantly produced women’s apparel, suggesting that there are many female sewing workers in the CSA. In the 1990s, the buoyant garment industry began to slowdown. However, since the mid-2000s when K-Fashion began to be internationally recognized as a distinctive fashion genre, DFM emerged as one of Seoul’s key tourist attractions. It is estimated that almost 600,000 people visit DFM on a single day (KCIS, 2012). Businessmen and tourists from China, Japan, Russia and Southeast Asian countries have become frequent visitors. As a result, the city government came to see DFM as an appropriate site for creating an impressive landmark of Seoul (Evans, 2003). Former Seoul City mayor, Oh Sae-Hoon (July 2006–August 2011) launched the project to construct Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park (DDP), hoping for Seoul to be designated as 2010 World Design Capital. DDP was designed by the late star architect Zaha Hadid. It was completed in 2014 using a public fund of 422 million US dollars. Such a huge investment was justified by the belief that it would contribute to promoting Seoul as an international hub for fashion and design (Schumacher and Jeong, 2014). Contrastingly, socio-economic decline and spatial deterioration of the CSA has been worsening. The CSA has always provided cheap labour to DFM. Although such cheap labour has helped DFM to maintain its competitiveness in the domestic and overseas fashion markets, the waning garment industry and shabby housing and infrastructure have led to a declining population in the CSA. In addition, the deferral of the large-scale redevelopment New Town project caused the further decline of the CSA. In 2002, in order to achieve a ‘balanced regional development’, the SMG announced the launch of the New Town project in 683 districts, stretching over 27.3 km2, ~8 percent of residential areas in Seoul (Kang, 2012). In 2007, the CSA was assigned as one of the New Town projects. Residents in the redevelopment-designated zones were not allowed to renovate and repair their housing until all the arrangements for the project were settled. Many residents in the designated areas, including those from the CSA, were against the New Town project. They were concerned about the relatively long period required for the completion, with only low potential profits expected from the project. This deterred implementation, making the project stagnant. In 2013, finally, the implementation of the New Town was cancelled in the CSA through the residents’ opposition. Since early 2010s, however, the CSA has begun to be featured as a culturally rich old neighbourhood in films, television dramas and other mass media. For example, in March 2010, a well-known documentary programme aired the episode ‘Meeting the Sewing Sisters in Changsin-dong.’ It focused on the factory workers’ everyday life within the framework of a fashion production system. Not long after, the CSA became the filming site of a television drama, Secret Garden (November 2010–January 2011). As the drama gained a huge success in Asia, many foreign Asian tourists flocked to visit the CSA. It was around this time that people began to refer to the CSA as the Sewing Village of garment artisans, rather than a low-skilled workers’ neighbourhood. Another significant change in the CSA is the recent influx of new residents. Artists, designers, community activists, university students, and cultural and social entrepreneurs have established various organizations and facilities in the CSA; these included a community radio station, an art school for children, a children’s library, an art gallery, cafés, and guesthouses. They cited the following as reasons for their move to the CSA: their attraction to the local garment industry, the sense of solidarity rooted in local labour movements and the distinctive neighbourhood landscapes that contrast with the post-industrial landscapes of Seoul. For a long time, activists and organizations concerned with labour activism and grassroots movements have run childcare centres and shelters for workers in the CSA. Such social ties have sustained neighbourliness, which also gives inspiration to the new migrants. For example, one radio programme director said, ‘People show me that poor people can live in a wonderful way’ (Interview, 2 February 2015). By highlighting the history of labour movements in the CSA, a community activist who has just migrated to the locale said: I can sense a strong spirit of the labour movements and residents. This aspect explains eighty percent of my interest in this area. The rest twenty percent comes from a striking peculiarity of built environments. Winding alleys, complex structured houses, and strangely bent telegraph poles. All of them show me the modern history of Korea. They look flimsy and shoddy. At the same time, they look very interesting and give me inspiration (Interview, 2 February 2015). Although, there is a continuous interest in labour movements among the CSA newcomers, their immediate interest seems to lie in the unique landscapes created by a temporal disparity between the industrial CSA and the post-industrial surroundings, as well as in community-making as a lifestyle model, rather than struggles for workers’ rights. Changshin-Sungin area urban regeneration programme (CSA-URP) In tandem with the growing exposure of the CSA as a sewing village and the recent influx of new migrants, the SMG applied for the Urban Regeneration Programme (URP) on behalf of the CSA. With the central government’s financial support for 4 years, the CSA-URP commenced in 2014. Bottom-up participation or top-down orchestration? A great source of unhappiness for the CSA residents was that the city government did not consult them before it applied for the URP. It was only after the application that the SMG held public hearings for residents about this programme launching in the CSA. Thus, before understanding how the URP was different from the cancelled New Town project, the CSA residents came to face another unexpected project: I was strongly against the New Town project in order to protect my house. In the case of this URP, I do not want to be a guinea pig (Interview, 2 February 2015). The city government should not have applied for the project. Only when residents like me are motivated, something can be done. For now, nobody cares about the project (Interview, 26 February 2015). A major difference between the New Town and the URP is that the former is a representative wholesale redevelopment project financed by the private sector and the latter is completely subsidized by the public sector. Thus, influences of speculative developers have become weakened. Yet, on the other hand, as the public sector is the single financial resource, relevant authorities might wield significant influences over decision-making. When the CSA was appointed as one of the URP test-bed areas, city and district officials emphasized the huge amount of central government investment in the locale in order to gain the residents’ support for the project. The main actors of the CSA-URP are the resident groups, the civic sector, and the public sector. The public sector, which consists of the central, city, and district governments, is a strong advocate of the CSA-URP, as it has indirectly managed the CSA-URP by initiating and sponsoring it. The resident groups consist of long-term residents who own their homes, tenants, some of them are also workers in the factories, and relatively new residents who have recently migrated to the CSA engaged in culture-related businesses, village-making, and social enterprises. The civic sector consists of people engaged in NGOs and social enterprises. As the project progressed, long-term residents who own their homes, the civic sector, and so-called creative workers-cum-new residents have become the most active participants. Long-term residents are mostly older people and retirees who are free from regular working hours and highly cautious about price fluctuation of their properties. On one hand, this group of residents voluntarily and actively participate in public hearings and discussions. On the other hand, the group of new residents and the civic sector directly undertake the CSA-URP schemes by winning public funds. These two groups actively present their voices. However, the voice of tenants and workers-cum-tenants who are in fact, residents with less economic capital and/or cultural capital has hardly been presented. One activist who has been working for childcare centres for more than ten years in the CSA explained how difficult it has been for workers to participate in public projects: Governments always highlight residents’ voluntarily participation. In reality, when public hearings or residents’ meetings are arranged, those who turn up are mostly house owners. From the beginning, such events are structurally set favourable to housing owners. Workers in the sewing factories are mostly tenants. They are not able to attend any event, because they cannot leave their work places during their working hours (Interview, 2 February 2015). Initially, the URP highlights the role of governmental authorities as facilitators for public–private partnership and the central role of civic participation in policy practice. In this respect, in 2014, the City Regeneration Centre (CRC) was established as an intermediary between the government and residents. An architecture professor was appointed as the director. Its management council comprised six officials, eight resident representatives, and thirty-two experts as advisory consultants. However, one CRC official described the position of the CRC as an agent of the government: Residents are generally unfavourable to the authorities’ engagement in regeneration projects. Thus, an organization like the CRC was needed to alleviate the negative impression that the district and city governments were running the show from behind (Interview, 3 February 2015). It should be noted that central and regional governments tend to operate urban policy ‘from a distance’ more and more (Bonacich and Appelbaum, 2005). By exerting influences on consensual policy operation, government exerts their influences at arm’s length (Swyngedouw, 2011, p. 371). Given the operation of the CRC, it seems to serve as an entity that manages consensual policy processes. Based upon a series of hearings and discussions, the following three aspects have surfaced as the key objectives of the CSA-URP: the enhancement of a deteriorated residential environment, the reinvigoration of local economy, and the renewal of local historical and cultural values. The enhancement of the residential environment includes the renovation of housing, narrow, and old alleyways, water supplies, drainages, neighbourhood landscapes, parking lots, and children and young adult facilities. There are, however, a few problematic issues with regard to the operation of the key objectives. First, although nearly half of the CSA-URP budget, 9 million out of 20 million US dollars, has been assigned to residential environment improvement, the proposed schemes are the extension of the existing spatial improvement schemes. A significant amount of the budget has been pulled from other shared budget. For instance, ‘Habitat’, a home repair subsidy programme, which the city government and NGOs was established in 2009, is overlapped with one of the CSA-URP schemes. Second, while the regeneration of the garment industry has been highlighted for the reinvigoration of the local economy, actual resources have been allocated for promoting tourism. Residents expressed their wish to demolish an old stone-cutting site and nearby houses on a steep cliff, which were once used during the Japanese colonial period (1910–1945), in order to create a new youth centre. However, the SMG has pushed the renovation plan to turn the stone-cutting site into a performance stage and the old houses into guesthouses for tourists. For residents, the stone-cutting site and the old houses were seen as dangerous, ugly, and disorderly-built environments. Yet, the city and district governments saw them as valuable historical and cultural resources for neighbourhood regeneration. This aspect is further evinced by the creation of sewing village walking tours and the opening of a memorial house for a late artist who had no connection to the CSA. Overall, the proposed schemes are visitor-friendly than resident-friendly, in the sense that they primarily beautify the environment and create urban amenities for general public. As the CSA-URP is publicly funded, it has focused on the regeneration of public space and community-making rather than housing renovation. This aspect has significantly affected the allocation of resources and the mobilization of policy stakeholders. For neighbourhood infrastructure or village tourism?? The majority of CSA residents, regardless of their status as property owners or tenants, have highlighted road maintenance and the improvement of poor housing as the most urgent tasks for the regeneration project (SMGa, 2015). However, it is hard for the regional government to inject public funds into private properties. Thus, the CRC’s proposals have focused on the maintenance of public space: the provision and/or maintenance of CCTV, green space, roof gardens, childcare centres, senior centres, parks, and museums. However, the improvement of public infrastructure has been excluded from the proposals, as the given budget was too little to implement extensive infrastructural projects. As a result, the CSA-URP schemes have not been able to meet the residents’ urgent needs; either the given funds are not to be spent for private housing or the budget amount is too insufficient to amend public infrastructure. Among other budget items, however, the tourism budget has been executed promptly. For example, an old house has been renovated as a sewing museum called the Sewing Anchorage Centre since 2016. The museum mainly demonstrates apparel production processes and offers tourists to experience the operation of sewing machines. However, residents initially refused the idea of turning a house into a museum, because they associated so-called experience tourism with an invasion of privacy and discomfort of everyday life. It has been observed that contemporary tourists are increasingly attracted by the markers of the ‘ordinary’ forms of life and work rather than the artworks displayed in museums (Urry, 2005 , p. 209). Under this changing trend of tourist behaviours, ordinary, and mundane spaces have often been repackaged as attractions and everyday life spaces have been museumified6. In a similar manner, under the CSA-URP, the housing-cum-sewing factories have been excavated to demonstrate the transmission of the artistic spirit to the sewing factories in CSA. The village-scape narrative has been strengthened, in order to preserve the unique landscapes created by the sewing factories, the narrow and winding lanes, and the hilly topography to enhance the distinctiveness of the CSA. The sewing village narrative symbolizes both the spatial proximity and the coeval existence between industrial and post-industrial Seoul. The garment industry is primarily affected by flexible and globally mobilized capital, which easily crosses national borders, looking for cheaper labour costs, loose labour unions, and liberalized economic regulations. Fast fashion trends and flexible capital and labour significantly contribute to the vicissitudes of the garment industry. The regeneration of the CSA does not result from comprehensive countermeasures against the waning garment industry. Rather it pays much attention to musemification of the neighbourhood as a sewing village. One CRC official mentioned that: For the waning garment industry in this neighbourhood, the industry should do something, not by us. Even the city government does not have a master plan for the revival of the garment industry. We neither can work on the garment industry (Interview, 15 May 2015). Given this complex structural and operational uniqueness of the garment industry, the factory-preservation-focused CSA-URP’s schemes might not fully regenerate the local economy that is heavily dependent on the garment industry. The rediscovery of the local history and culture is not a problematic issue in itself yet whether it would ultimately regenerate the local economy and improve poor working and living conditions of residents and workers should be contemplated. Several residents who were interviewed for this research argued that the real reason why the URP has been first implemented in the CSA is the high visibility of the cultural and historical narrative surrounding the sewing factories and the neighbourliness knitted through labour and grassroots movements (Field notes, March and May 2015). Application economy and consensual politics In order to encourage participation in the CSA-URP, 0.75 million dollars (USD) has been assigned to materialize the people’s ideas and proposals. Even though this budget is much lesser than that of other items, its distribution method, specifically public contest, has brought significant impact on social relations in the locale. Previously, when developers led redevelopment projects, residents’ participation meant entitlement to negotiation over compensation for their resettlement. Such participation depended on having private property ownership. The exclusion of tenants and squatters has often been criticized for causing displacement. Being the first publicly funded regeneration project, the CSA-URP has brought an alternative way of participation: citizens contest for public projects and funds. Many CSA residents, however, are not familiar with this method. They predominantly think that public funds should be equitably distributed (Observation during the public hearing organised by the district government, 24 May 2015). Indeed, many CSA residents do not pay attention to the announcement of the public contest and its logistics details. Furthermore, the whole process of public contest is conducted through Internet communication. Consequently, residents, who are unfamiliar with and have difficulty in using the Internet, are ruled out from participation. When residents came to know that NGOs, rather than long-term residents, were awarded public funds,7 they thought that NGO members received preferential treatment from the governments. House owners, in particular, felt that their voice as long-term residents and property owners were neglected. From their perspective, activists, social and cultural entrepreneurs, university students, and artists are non-residents, who now exert significant influences on neighbourhood affairs. At the same time, some of the local organizations opined that the city government did not acknowledge their legitimacy as insiders of the CSA. For example, the interviewee pointed out that although several locally rooted organizations applied for funds in order to archive local oral history, it was an external applicant who won the fund (Interview, 2 February 2015). He commented that the SMG prefers culturally sophisticated people who can create more visible and ‘cool’ outcomes, which, he saw, has resulted in the ‘gentrification of organizations’ (ibid.): Gentrification of organizations has taken place. Everything has started with the URP. Before its designation, no one, except a small number of people, including us, cares about this neighbourhood. Significantly, cultural capital, rather than economic capital, has emerged as a crucial factor to participate in the CSA-URP. To a certain extent, this might be seen as part of the movement towards the right to the city. Participation in urban politics, regardless of property ownership, has been asserted to secure rights to access urban resources and make a city for its users rather than for creating unnecessary products (Harvey, 2008). This claim is based on the observation that investment capital has led urbanization processes to turn urban space into commodities. One significant aspect of the CSA-URP is that the method of ‘application economy’ operates as a means to utilise cultural capital of ‘creative underclass’ (Gornostaeva and Campbell, 2012: 172) consisting of self-employed freelancers, students, artists, activists, and start-ups, in order to cost-effectively produce new symbolic commodities. It is worth considering whether the authorities have appropriated public funds to turn the vestige of the CSA’s manufacturing environments into a lucrative cultural product, disregarding the improvement of the deteriorated residential and working environments. Through the revalorization of the unvarnished neighbourhood environment, what is newly created might be a tourist product, an artisan sewing village. Through winning in public contests, activists, artists, and entrepreneurs might have been temporarily recruited as creative workers to produce new usage and value to the CSA. Concluding remarks This research started out to examine whether the CSA-URP has offered alternative governance methods to those of the previous projects that endorsed developer-led, profit-seeking, and property-owner-focused urban redevelopment. By drawing on the current debates on post-political urban policy, this paper has focused on investigating the aspect of participation and partnership deployed in the CSA-URP. First, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has utilized the City Regeneration Centre (CRC), which was organised as an intermediary to garner neighbourhood governance and public–private partnership, for mitigating the impression that the CSA-URP has been led by central government and SMG. Many residents who were interviewed for this research commented that the CRC’s role was to hide the pre-arranged project’s directions and to lead smooth administration. In this respect, the CRC can be seen as having served consensual policy processes. By dismissing speculative private developers from urban regeneration, the central government and SMG presented themselves as facilitators to promote good governance. However, top-down decision-making processes still seem to operate as an operational principle in the village-making of the CSA. Second, ironically, the strengthened focus on publicness in the CSA-URP has made it harder for many residents who need financial and legal assistance for improving their housing and working conditions to obtain public resources. Structural and institutional conundrums that have deteriorated the current housing and working conditions in the CSA – illegal remodelling of housing and factory space, informal labour forces, and poor infrastructure that have sustained the garment industry – have not been properly addressed. Yet, the implemented schemes have concentrated on the beautification of the landscapes and excavation of cultural and historical heritage sites. This can be seen as the depoliticization of highly political-economic landscapes. A significant aspect of the CSA-URP is the government’s utilization of cultural capital of a creative underclass as an activator to induce the influx of people and investment capital. In other words, it has been facilitated by contingent employment through mobilizing the intermediary, NGOs, and the application-based public contest. This whole process might be seen as an effort to minimize real estate bubbles and fluctuations in residency while invigorating a locality. Yet, it has filtered out the political-economic concerns from the project agendas, which are generative tensions existing in the manufacturing of neighbourhood. Third, the CSA-URP has widened the scope of participation in urban policy. Through public contest, residents as well as NGOs and concerned individuals, who are interested in the CSA’s regeneration, have been able to participate in the project. Notably, relatively young activists, students, artists, and cultural and social entrepreneurs, who are motivated to foster the sense of community rooted in the CSA’s manufacturing worker’s culture have pursued village-making, through which individuals can exert an influence on the place to live and work. This can be seen as a reflective gesture towards the urbanization of Tabula Rasa, which has erased accumulated collective histories and relationships in Seoul. On the other hand, they have come to the CSA, also because it offers relatively cheap working space in the centre of Seoul. If they win the public contests, they can utilize the public funds for their seed funds. In this respect, the CSA-URP has drawn on relatively young and motivated participants equipped with creativity and entrepreneurship. Yet, their interest is more focused on preserving ‘idealized’ neighbourliness rather than improving poor infrastructure and housing/factory conditions. Lastly, to what extent is the CSA-URP participatory village-making or post-political urban regeneration? It should be noted that the CSA, the place itself, has been politicized amid an urban regime change and a consequent watershed in policy paradigm change in Seoul. By criticizing the previous urban policy for being top-down and developmental, the present mayor has ‘politically’ historicized the CSA as a sewing village. At stake is, however, that the CSA-URP has been ‘depoliticized’ under the banner of participation, partnership, and governance. The arm’s length principle, public–private partnership, and public contest have in effect implanted the creative underclass as the agent of consensual urban regeneration while filtering out thorny issues of precarious living and working conditions, a surplus creative underclass, and the declining manufacturing industry from village-making. There is a significant overlapping between the CSA-URP and post-political urban policy; both hide internal dissensus by good governance discourse. The CSA-URP might be the first case of a post-political urban project in Seoul, which elucidates an urban paradigm shift, from redevelopment to urban regeneration, under the governmental aspirations for anti-development and anti-authoritarianism. Footnotes 1 This refers to the global popularity of South Korean fashion along with Korean dramas and pop songs. 2 Officials of local governments are still seen as major managers who directly control the access to urban resources and facilities. 3 In the post-political condition in most Western countries, Žižek (2002: 303) argues that a managerial approach to government is growing deprived of its proper political dimension. 4 For instance, a New Labour’s urban renewal project in London exemplifies how consensus-building through ‘carefully choreographed processes of participation’ externalized internal and generative tensions and conflicts in a locale, thereby de-politicizing the political (Lees, 2013: 931). 5 Tabula Rasa refers to a situation that preconceived ideas or predetermined goals are absent. 6 Urry conceived the expression ‘museumify’ (Urry, 2005 ). 7 For example, in 2013, community activist and artist groups whose members have just migrated to the CSA opened a local library for children with public funds and donations. 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Community Development Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: Nov 10, 2017
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