Abstract This paper focuses on the issues raised by a redevelopment project currently taking place in an ‘urban village’ in Seoul, Korea. The paper examines the urban villagers’ diverse community activities and responses to the redevelopment project. Furthermore, it explores how place attachment and communal feeling among neighbours have not only played an important role in creating emotional alliances for resistance against the redevelopment project, but have also helped residents to keep their property rights. This paper ultimately stresses the contradictions of the Hapdong redevelopment system through examining long-term residents’ responses in the topography of conflict over the redevelopment project, and argues that this system is no longer fit to serve the needs of the urban ecology. In the spring of 2008, I bought a house in an area of Seoul scheduled to be redeveloped. Soon a plan was announced to demolish it and build a new apartment complex in its place. My family planned to move into one of the new apartments upon its completion three years later. Although our house was demolished in 2013 (Figure 1), as of now, 2016, the new apartment complex has not been built. In the meantime, my wife and I have lived elsewhere in the vicinity with our two children. My earlier hopes of quickly moving into a new apartment have faded. The redevelopment process was not as simple as I had thought it would be. On the contrary, it was an amalgamation of relationships among diverse stakeholders and interest groups. Concerned to understand these dynamics, I researched and analysed the community history of the area's residents, especially the people who considered the neighbourhood to be like a village. Figure 1 View largeDownload slide The site where my house once stood (Bukahyeon-dong in the spring of 2013) (photo by the author) Figure 1 View largeDownload slide The site where my house once stood (Bukahyeon-dong in the spring of 2013) (photo by the author) Residents of this area usually called their neighbourhood a ‘dongne’ (‘village’) and represented themselves as villagers, sometimes with a sense similar to that of rural villagers (as opposed to a real estate investment sense). In the 1960s, Herbert Gans conceptualized them as ‘urban villagers’ (1962). After the 1970s, the focus of academic research shifted from urban neighbourhoods or urban villages to social networks to help overcome some of the limitations arising from the quest for community. But the concept of network overlooks some aspects of people's attachments to their residential areas that are important for understanding urban life (Menahem and Spiro, 1989; Jarvis, Berkeley and Broughton, 2012). A sense of belonging among urban villagers and long-term residents’ attachments to specific places within a metropolis are worth studying to understand various models of urban community. In China, for example, the term ‘urban village’ has a particular meaning as ‘a third category of spaces and residents’ (Wang, Wang and Wu, 2009). Another term, ‘village-in-the-city’ refers to these spaces as ‘isolated islands’. This term starkly contrasts the urban village with the surrounding urban fabric, resulting in a fragmented landscape between new and old, urban and rural (Chung, 2010). The concept of ‘village-in-the-city’ can be used to explain rapid urbanization in developing countries in places such as Guangzhou, China (Lin, de Meulder and Wang, 2011). Compared with the Chinese, the Koreans experienced urbanization earlier, but in both cases mainly internal migrants were involved in the urbanization process. Such urban villages are part of an urbanization phenomenon that can occur in any developing country with frequent rural-to-urban migration. As I made progress on the research of this redevelopment area that I had intended to make home, I realized that a number of residents wanted to continue to live there, but their opinions were relatively insignificant in the complex map of economic interests. I could observe more important social change through their activities – changes such as the decline of the real estate market and the structural contradictions of the urban redevelopment system in Korea – that provided new perspectives on redevelopment. Meanwhile, the contradictions of the Korean redevelopment method called the Hapdong redevelopment system have become evident in the rapid transformation of the urban structure. This system has been working as a social technology system. ‘Hapdong’, meaning ‘cooperation’ or ‘joint’ in Korean, can be characterized as emphasizing the role of the private sector in the form of owners’ associations rather than city government. Additionally, an owners’ association selects a construction company for a redevelopment project and the city government allows high-density development to ensure reasonable profits for all participants (Lee, Lee and Yim, 2003, pp. 2225–2226). This Hapdong redevelopment system has been problematic for millions of poor people who have been evicted from their settlements since the 1980s. Landowners or developers have made large profits from redevelopment projects (Ha, 2001, p. 391). Recently, however, this profit structure has broken down due to the downturn in the real estate market. At the same time, those who have lived for over thirty years in their settlements have opposed development projects and have organized meetings such as emergency planning committee meetings to forestall redevelopment. In this paper I examine meanings within a sort of urban village at a particular moment in a city's evolutionary process. I focus on the neighbourhood's life history, the diverse community activities, and the collective memories of neighbourhood (Blokland, 2009) that show residents’ attachment to their place (Gafford, 2013). Additionally, I explore how such an identity not only plays an important role in creating emotional alliances that facilitate resistance against redevelopment projects, but also how it is a factor for residents in retaining property rights (Manning Thomas, 1985; Phillips, 2004). I will ultimately stress the contradictions of the Hapdong redevelopment system through long-term residents’ involvement in conflicts over the Bukahyeon-dong redevelopment area. The history of urbanization and the formation of daldongne (moon villages) The redevelopment regions of Seoul mainly include hilly villages of deteriorating residential areas, the industrial and manufacturing areas of the city centre and the dilapidated retail business districts. Typically, these areas were built during the industrialization and urbanization eras and include areas formed by migrants who crowded into Seoul in the late twentieth century. Since then, these areas have undergone continuous change with the improvement of transportation facilities, the movement of the population and partial renovation, but have generally remained working class (or lower class) spaces due to narrow streets, inadequate public facilities, inconvenience and a poor housing environment. Despite changing distribution systems and the development of transportation and commercial areas, a significant number of traditional markets that have been in the area since the late twentieth century have remained vibrant in these regions. Additionally, communities of dong (the smallest administrative unit) remain, composed of residents, merchants and technicians who established themselves as small-scale manufacturers and self-employers. Currently, there are 26 districts designated as new town districts in Seoul, each one divided into nearly 330 smaller redevelopment zones. As such, redevelopment areas are distributed extensively throughout Seoul. Bukahyeon-dong, near the core business district, is representative of Seoul's working class and poor residential areas (Seoul Museum of History, 2009a). This area, which I researched, began as a slum in the colonial era of the early twentieth century. After the Korean War, it became a typical hillside village with the influx of North Korean refugees and rural migrants during the 1960s and 1970s (Mobrand, 2008). Table 1 shows the rapid increase in population in the 1960s and the increase in the percentage of people who lived in apartments around the 1980s (Kosis, 2016; Stat., 2016). If as many moon villages – or daldongne – as planned are redeveloped into apartment complexes, the number of apartments after 2010 will represent a drastic increase over the current 58.84 per cent of urban neighbourhoods. Table 1 Population after the 1950s and the rate of apartments after the 1970s in Seoul Year Population Apartment rate (%) Note 1950 1,693,224 1955 1,574,868 After Korean War 1960 2,445,402 1965 3,470,880 Exceeded 4 million in 1968 1970 5,433,198 Start of Kangnam area development project in Seoul 1975 6,889.502 7.85 1980 8,364,379 18.75 1985 9,639,110 26.05 Establishment of the Hapdong redevelopment system in 1983 1990 10,612,577 35.11 Exceeded 10 million in 1988 1995 10,231,217 42.43 2000 9,895,217 53.3 Start of new town project in Seoul in 2002 2010 9,794,304 58.84 Year Population Apartment rate (%) Note 1950 1,693,224 1955 1,574,868 After Korean War 1960 2,445,402 1965 3,470,880 Exceeded 4 million in 1968 1970 5,433,198 Start of Kangnam area development project in Seoul 1975 6,889.502 7.85 1980 8,364,379 18.75 1985 9,639,110 26.05 Establishment of the Hapdong redevelopment system in 1983 1990 10,612,577 35.11 Exceeded 10 million in 1988 1995 10,231,217 42.43 2000 9,895,217 53.3 Start of new town project in Seoul in 2002 2010 9,794,304 58.84 Table 1 Population after the 1950s and the rate of apartments after the 1970s in Seoul Year Population Apartment rate (%) Note 1950 1,693,224 1955 1,574,868 After Korean War 1960 2,445,402 1965 3,470,880 Exceeded 4 million in 1968 1970 5,433,198 Start of Kangnam area development project in Seoul 1975 6,889.502 7.85 1980 8,364,379 18.75 1985 9,639,110 26.05 Establishment of the Hapdong redevelopment system in 1983 1990 10,612,577 35.11 Exceeded 10 million in 1988 1995 10,231,217 42.43 2000 9,895,217 53.3 Start of new town project in Seoul in 2002 2010 9,794,304 58.84 Year Population Apartment rate (%) Note 1950 1,693,224 1955 1,574,868 After Korean War 1960 2,445,402 1965 3,470,880 Exceeded 4 million in 1968 1970 5,433,198 Start of Kangnam area development project in Seoul 1975 6,889.502 7.85 1980 8,364,379 18.75 1985 9,639,110 26.05 Establishment of the Hapdong redevelopment system in 1983 1990 10,612,577 35.11 Exceeded 10 million in 1988 1995 10,231,217 42.43 2000 9,895,217 53.3 Start of new town project in Seoul in 2002 2010 9,794,304 58.84 A daldongne is a shanty town or poor hillside village in an urban area. ‘Dal’ means ‘moon’ and ‘dongne’ means ‘village’ in the Korean language. In the late twentieth century, as these poor villages started forming on hillsides, the term ‘moon village’ was coined because it was easier to observe the moon from these higher locations. The word was romanticized and consolidated in the media and later among the general public. The area of Bukahyeon-dong was perceived as a moon village for a long time due to the concentration of poor residential areas in which simple houses formed unauthorized housing groups on hillsides. But this neighbourhood also has a concentration of upper-middle class homes from the Japanese colonial era; in fact, much of the village is a mix of upper-middle and lower class residences. Moon villages represent the cultural life of slums in the history of Korean urbanization in the second half of the twentieth century. The government carried out various policies for the redevelopment of these shanty villages. In the end, the market-driven Hapdong redevelopment system was established in the early 1980s. This system, which is effectively an association composed of the property owners and a construction company, pursues redevelopment without public assistance (Lee, Lee and Yim, 2003, p. 2224). Therefore this method constitutes a socio-economic structure in which the economically weak have no choice but to be released from their neighbourhoods. The redevelopment areas of Seoul, then, are the marginal spaces of the city filled with mainly decrepit low-rise structures, unlike the developed areas with office buildings and apartment complexes (Figure 2). Today, three years after my investigation, a number of homes have been demolished and their inhabitants have moved to areas nearby or outside Seoul. Some of the residents do not have rights to land disposal and are holding out against demolition with only their rights to structural property. Most of these economically stressed people, who do not have the money to move into new apartments, sell their rights to residency in order to receive a premium. During a real estate boom, they could take advantage of some economic benefits to move into cheaper housing in the neighbourhood, but with the recent economic recession, they have been scattered to the outskirts of Seoul. In the past, when people moved within several hundred metres or across the street from development-targeted areas, maintaining connections with previous neighbours was a definite possibility. When people are pushed to the far outskirts of Seoul, however, they become disconnected from social networks constructed over a long period of time. Currently, the redevelopment projects of Seoul are insensitive to this violent destruction of relational networks and residents’ sense of belonging to their villages. Village identity and social networks will not continue for much longer, given what are generally perceived as bright prospects for redevelopment. Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Future Bukahyeon-dong after redevelopment (photo courtesy of Seodaemun District Office) Figure 2 View largeDownload slide Future Bukahyeon-dong after redevelopment (photo courtesy of Seodaemun District Office) The old village seen through life histories and a loosely-knit community Seoul was formed by internal migrants swept along in a whirlpool of rapid political and economic changes since the mid-twentieth century. The conglomerations of old houses in which moon villagers have lived for generations have become targets of redevelopment. Residents of old villages experienced urbanization in the process of twentieth century modernization and created their own unique urban lifestyle. For ‘villagers in the city’, long-term residence is in dynamic interaction with their individual lives. Their strong attachment to the inconvenient and run-down villages is shaped by the temporal coexistence of their personal lives and their residences. Life stories of individual residents make up the bigger village history (Borchert, 1980; Saunders and Shackelford, 2005). The village history can be reconstructed through an active exchange of information among informants and researchers. Questions concerning people's reasons for settlement in the village and how the village has changed often initiated recollections and a journey back in time. Most of the villagers were self-proclaimed ‘living witnesses of the village history’, and identified their life stories with the village history, earnestly hoping that not one trivial detail of their histories would disappear to redevelopment. The life story of Bukahyoen-dong's Mr So (born in 1933) is one example. Born in North Korea, he settled in Seoul after the Korean War (Figure 3). His life history of settlement, married life and working in Bukahyoen-dong is inseparable from the place. After marriage, he ran an electrical appliances and repair store for residents of the neighbourhood, and as a leader of various meetings related to the village, including hometown gatherings, he thought of himself as ‘Bukahyoen-dong's living history’. He settled there far away from his birthplace without family or kin, and subsequently it became his adopted hometown. The situation in which his life-long establishments – his house and store – had to disappear gave him an indescribably immense sense of deprivation (Seoul Museum of History, 2009b, pp.273–274). Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Village-in-the-making: the landscape of Bukahyeon in the 1950s (photo courtesy of Bukahyeon church) Figure 3 View largeDownload slide Village-in-the-making: the landscape of Bukahyeon in the 1950s (photo courtesy of Bukahyeon church) The life history of Mr Song (born in 1922) is closely intertwined with the events of the Korean War. His father was kidnapped from Bukahyeon-dong and taken to North Korea during the war, and with his mother waiting for his father's return, he could not leave his home in Bukahyeon-dong. He had left his original hometown in North Korea during his early childhood, moving through Kando, the Jilin province in the southeast region of China, and eventually moving to Bukahyeon-dong in 1936 during the colonial period. There he attended high school, got married and saw his children grow up. He still keeps one of the train tickets he used to commute to school, and holds dear the precious keepsakes from his father. He had an opportunity to move, but turned it down because of his vigilant mother's belief that his father would return to their house. He has lived in the same house for over seventy years (Seoul Museum of History, 2009b, pp. 203–204). In ways such as these, residents’ life stories intersect with the bigger structure of modern Korean history and, at the same time, explain village history. The transformative process in which grasslands are filled with a disarray of houses and are later replaced with organized apartment complexes is part of Seoul's history as well as modern Korean history. These people have lived their entire lives in relation to their residences, but redevelopment has severed these connections. The urban development law requiring a minimum of seventy-five per cent of landowners’ consent has allowed for redevelopment projects, forcing the rest of the residents, often marginal residents and the elderly, to leave their villages without time to even properly reflect on what they had built up throughout their lives. Furthermore, a village-centred relational network is often present in an individual's life history. People formed diverse groups based on age, gender, social status and class relations, and their activities show ties as members of the same village. Although such networks are inherently different from those in rural communities where people engage in shared agricultural production, urban villagers desired to exist as one village by dong, the smallest administrative unit of the city. The Youtnori Tournament, a traditional game in Korea, receives donations from merchants and locally owned businesses of the Bukahyeon-dong region, and sponsorship from heads of various organizations deeply involved in local affairs. Members of the Women's Association, mainly women in their forties and fifties, volunteer to serve food to participants. The event, held during Daeboreum (the period from New Year's Day to the first full moon), is not necessarily spectacular; nor does it draw large crowds. Nonetheless, participants gather to celebrate and enjoy a day dedicated to the well-being of Bukahyeon-dong (Seoul Museum of History, 2009b, p. 125). Many of the participants are merchants established in the village and self-employed businessmen. Those in middle age and the elderly participate more readily than the younger generation of commuters working outside the village. Visitors who return to the village after relocation demonstrate best the strength of bonds made in the village. In the case of Ahyeon-dong (opposite Bukahyeon-dong), relocation was nearly complete, with most of the homes removed by 2009. Surprisingly, however, elderly people who had relocated to nearby or more distant areas from Ahyeon-dong were visiting their home village on a regular basis. Although the senior citizen centre was gone, a temporary container box on the vacant land served as a substitute for their original resting space. The small container box, from which the noise of nearby excavator cranes could be heard, became an improvised shelter for the long-time residents of Ahyeon-dong, who were akin to a microcosm of the village. They spent their days sharing food, enjoying pleasantries, and playing hwa-tu as they had done in the past. In a similar example, I once visited an event where samgyetang, a traditional Korean dish of ginseng and chicken that promotes stamina in the summer, was served to the elderly. Hosted by the Women's Association and Youth Association of the village, the event was on boknal, one of the three hottest days of summer in Korea. I met the elderly woman who had sold me her house the previous year. At the time, she had moved a little distance away from the village. Despite the mobility problems her ailing body caused her, she would visit her old village on occasion. She had settled in Bukahyeon-dong in the 1960s, selling tofu for a living, and was later able to afford a small house near the railway tracks where she lived with her son's family for nearly fifty years. She was a living example of the inseparability of an individual's life from their ties to the village, as she had returned to her village despite her aching leg. Villagers of Bukahyeon-dong have formed loosely-knit neighbourhood relationships in which they share their daily lives in the village alleys. In the wider intersections of alleys, they have placed wide wooden floors or spread out a mat, and spent the day there with one another. Usually they share food and play hwa-tu, or they crack chestnuts and peel garlic as a side job. Once in a while, elderly women would burst out laughing in the narrow alleys. However, if I asked a question about redevelopment, their faces would harden and they would reply, ‘Our sons and daughters are all useless. We like our neighbours better.’ One elderly woman was kind enough to treat me to a drink in her small house, and I was able to listen to her experiences of relocating numerous times to avoid redevelopment projects. These characteristics indicate that places such as these may be understood as small dynamic societies. The problem, however, is that the loosely-knit communities made up of settlers who have lived there more than forty or fifty years will undergo big changes in the new scheme of urban redevelopment and high-rise apartment complexes. Of course, as Randy Stoecker pointed out in his case study of Cedar-Riverside, these communities no longer had the gemeinschaft quality of community life (Stoecker, 1994). Gans also highlighted that the slums were not charming neighbourhoods full of ‘noble peasants’. They neither lived extravagantly nor had a strong sense of community cohesion (Gans, 1962). As shown in the example of residents of the redevelopment area of Seoul, however, certain forms, actions and expressions have communal meanings in these villages. Importantly, they use these activities and expressions of belonging as a discourse of resistance when they confront the crisis of village dissipation due to redevelopment. The redevelopment project and the topography of interested groups The role of local government in the Hapdong redevelopment system of Korea is limited to development planning and administrative management. The Seoul metropolitan government is responsible for establishing a broad-based urban planning district office in charge of construction-related details. Public financing is not considered for redevelopment projects, which should be driven by the union of landlords. The builder selected by the landlords through voting builds an apartment complex on flat ground after eliminating the hills. Many service companies are involved in the redevelopment project, including those that evaluate environmental impacts and transportation, building demolition companies, and even some that drag people who refuse to migrate out of their houses. As shown in Figure 4, membership in the redevelopment project union is limited to the land and building owners. Tenants who were living in a designated area before the authorization for a redevelopment project implementation phase can receive compensation as specified by law and are eligible to live in rental housing within the new development after the completion of the project. On the other hand, although tenant storekeepers forcibly removed from their stores receive compensation for business losses for up to three months, they do not have the right to move into the new development. In particular, the gwonrigeum (premium) accepted as customary in Korea has not been included in any legal compensation. The gwonrigeum is the cost of taking over a store, which a person opening a new shop pays the previous storekeeper. These costs include the expense of improving the facilities attached to the real estate and an invisible guaranteed income. Since gwonrigeum is not legally protected, tenant storekeepers cannot claim the gwonrigeum from landlords – fees they would customarily have collected, having been forced to leave their stores because of redevelopment. Therefore, their resistance to redevelopment is very strong. Figure 4 View largeDownload slide The complex relationship between interest groups Figure 4 View largeDownload slide The complex relationship between interest groups Of course the core of the conflict in Bukahyeon-dong is the varied interest among landlords in the promotion of the redevelopment project. In particular, leaving or joining the union for the redevelopment project is very flexible. Inside residents move away from their village due to the additional expense, but the number of outside investors expecting a rise in housing prices after the redevelopment is gradually increasing. The speed of redevelopment projects in Bukahyeon-dong has increased in some areas thanks to active external investors, but much of the region is still mired in a stalled process. Above all, the decline in the real estate market has created concerns among long-term residents that they may not be able to go back to the redeveloped housing and may even be deprived of their property. In any case, the changing socio-economic situation has made long-term residents rethink their neighbourhoods, and has created a foundation of emotional solidarity for those in opposition to redevelopment. As a result, among residents of Bukahyeon-dong, the frustration of economic benefits due to the recession of the real estate market has led to additional costs, and this problem has decisively and undeniably motivated opposition. Long-term residents have developed a strong antipathy towards the demolition of villages and have organized emergency planning committees (Bisang-daechaek-wi) to start an opposition movement. Controversies over redevelopment projects are usually divided into two extremes: those involving inside residents and those involving outside real estate investors. Thus, while the emergency planning committee consists mainly of long-term residents who oppose the Bukahyeon-dong redevelopment project, the outside investors require rapid development and therefore confront those who have lived in the area for years. Of course, interests surrounding the redevelopment project show a more complex topography than these two extreme positions. Interests become more complicated depending on whether those involved are residents, small storekeepers, house owners or tenants. The groups in this complex structure are exposed to various conflicts during external dealings with the redevelopment project union, the construction company and the local government. In the case of Bukahyeon-dong, increased expenses due to the real estate recession, which likely required the additional allotment of funds, consequently accelerated the expulsion of long-term residents. However, the most serious conflict resulted from residents’ realization that they had been left with additional expenses due to an increased rate of cash liquidation. The group opposing the redevelopment project naturally consisted of the long-term Bukahyeon-dong residents who had not left. The logic of their opposition to the redevelopment was converted into demands to ensure the survival of their property beyond its attachment to the village. This is why the emergency planning committee was also called the ‘property keeper’, reflecting people's desire to keep a house throughout their life. The meaning of the village they express is that of ‘hometown’. The formation of solidarity amongst residents of the same hometown is evident through the activities of the emergency planning committee. Communal sentiments formed in the process of the resistance movement caused by the increasing expulsion of villagers have gone beyond even the significance of hometown to protect their property. Residents’ activities have constituted a struggle to keep their houses, as the houses represent their whole lives. The expulsion of villagers can be seen as the core of the contradictions in the Hapdong redevelopment system of Korea. According to the new town project report in Seoul, the resettlement rate of native residents was around forty per cent for land and house owners, and under ten per cent for the tenants (Jang and Yang, 2008, p. 72). This system, privileging the private sector over public concerns, encourages the collapse of the local community. Therefore, the main purpose of the emergency planning committee, as explained by the group itself, is to resist the expulsion of villagers and to defend their property values. The group has grown more aggressive after watching their neighbours leave their village to avoid the additional expense. Residents of Bukahyeon-dong formed their own organization in 2011, and have been acting in various ways since then to bring about the abolishment of the development plan. Practices of the opposition movement against the redevelopment project system The redevelopment opposition group has raised its concerns in various ways. First, they have intensively publicized the improper redevelopment plan and problems they face due to the additional expense. They have distributed leaflets declaring the illegality of the redevelopment union and the economically unsound situation of the redevelopment project. Additionally, they opened their own office where they collected opposition signatures. The claims on their leaflets included the following phrases: ‘We just want to live here as we are now’; ‘We do not want to lose our property at give-away prices’; ‘We want to get away from the fear of additional charges’. They have been showing a video that informs residents of the problems of redevelopment, and have even equipped a handcart to bring the video to people who cannot visit their office. They have also held presentations for residents several times in the community centre and district office in order to publicize their opinions. Recently, they expressed their intense willingness to resist redevelopment by hoisting red flags in their houses (Figure 5). At the same time, these residents have raised complaints with the district office and have visited the Seoul Metropolitan Government office to exert pressure on the local government which gives permission rights to urban development projects. They sometimes participate in demonstrations in conjunction with the emergency planning committees of other areas and with external non-governmental organizations. Furthermore, they are preparing to call for legislation that mitigates the requirements for the rescission of the redevelopment districts. Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Red flags representing opposition against the redevelopment project (photograph by the author) Figure 5 View largeDownload slide Red flags representing opposition against the redevelopment project (photograph by the author) Those in opposition to redevelopment in Bukahyeon-dong have expressed their arguments through stickers, leaflets and songs (Figure 6a and b). In particular, the opposition songs they created express their attachment to the village. While they were collecting petition signatures for the dissolution of the redevelopment project union in their neighbourhoods, they let people hear the songs. The song lyrics contained sentiments such as the following: My hometown where we live My hometown where I live is a good place to live Let's protect our houses by consenting to dissolve the redevelopment project union We will regret it if we miss this opportunity How about living here together? I like here where I am living Let's submit a consent form for the dissolution of the redevelopment project union It will be dissolved if the rate of opposition is more than fifty per cent We will regret it if we miss this opportunity Figure 6 View largeDownload slide (a) Headquarters of the redevelopment opposition movement and (b) a leaflet expressing opposition to the project (photos by the author) Figure 6 View largeDownload slide (a) Headquarters of the redevelopment opposition movement and (b) a leaflet expressing opposition to the project (photos by the author) In short, these kinds of activities and voices can be regarded as performances of resistance against the redevelopment system of Korea, which is expected to form a critical foundation for the Hapdong redevelopment system. In addition, this also means a redirection against large-scale urban development focusing on apartment complex construction. In the course of modernization, apartment buildings, consolidated as the main component of the Korean housing culture, have become the key to understanding the politics and sociology of development. The formation of the ‘Korean apartment culture’, according to Valerie Gelezeau, reveals that apartment complexes are not simply homes, but serve to illustrate the issues of urban development and urbanization in Korea. This apartment culture is uniquely Korean, distinguished from the Western one. Gelezeau regarded the apartment culture in Korea as one of the most original products of modernization, as well as a symbol and measure of and a medium for reckoning the degree of Korean modernity (Gelezeau, 2004). In this respect, apartment complexes can be the lens used to understand the ‘culture of development’ that forms the political economy and sociology of urban development. The formation of large apartment complexes in present day Korea can be seen as a product of urban development. Their formation process has occurred simultaneously with Korean cities as these cities evolved to accommodate such complexes. The huge building of apartment complexes in Korea can be understood within the larger socio-technical framework formed within a legal, social and technical environment. At the same time, the policies of the Seoul government have recently changed. The city government has decided to reconsider redevelopment projects where the opposition movement is strong or the progress is too slow, escalating into a deadly conflict in the Bukahyeon-dong designated area. It was announced in Seoul that redevelopment project progress would be re-examined if the rate of opposition is more than fifty per cent. Accordingly, residents belonging to emergency planning committees became even more active in pursuing half the union members for their cause. However, it is very difficult to secure an opposition rate of fifty per cent in a situation where residents have been transformed into external investors. The real estate market has been gradually recovering for a few years, forming a new atmosphere for redevelopment projects. In particular, residents in Bukahyeon-dong who are tired of conflict and the dispute have sold their houses to outside investors and moved to other areas, creating big challenges for the opposition movement. The external investors wanted quick redevelopment, and the number of residents who opposed the redevelopment project again began to decline. Consequently, it was not an easy decision for residents in Bukahyeon-dong who were rethinking the meaning of the village community to stick with the opposition against the economic interests of a redevelopment project. In this sense, the meaning of the village community as a discourse of resistance might be just an illusion in the face of economic interests. Even so, some people still reconstruct their lives through the past and are eager to ensure the continued existence of their village community. The expression of these desires can be regarded as an attempt to correct the Hapdong redevelopment system, the gravest curse of the urban ecosystem in Korea, and a way to increase public concern. Conclusion It is still unknown to what extent my discussion of ‘urban village’ can serve to dismantle the system of Korean redevelopment based on the removal and relocation of local residents. At this point, however, the failure of redevelopment is becoming more and more evident. The Seoul city government is proposing new methods to maintain existing residences while expanding community space and public conveniences. In addition, a plan for new policy that emphasizes the ‘village community’ is under way. In this vein, the steps in defining value and meaning in Seoul's disappearing villages will be important for the future direction of urban redevelopment. The exploration of the lives of people and spaces of the older part of the city can be seen as an active participation in the irreversible process of redevelopment. Eventually, redeveloped areas will still transform the urban landscape, its residents completely replaced, and long-established communities will most likely be readjusted or dismantled. It will be difficult to avoid the disappearance of not only the old houses and the landscapes, but also the villagers and their memories. It is necessary, however, to reestablish respect for the older generation and their pasts, and to question whether or not the destruction of their spaces is justified by economic and capitalistic gains. I am confident that redefining the values of the ‘urban village’ will affect the political economy of redevelopment. Today, the houses many older residents have lived in have disappeared or are disappearing, and the relocatees have been dispersed like ‘urban nomads’. The situation of the diaspora can be rectified through a re-emphasis on the history and meaning of the ‘urban village’. Ultimately, the urban village is based on mutual interdependence, common experiences shared among villagers, and above all a sense of residing in a common spatial lifeworld. The redevelopment issue in Seoul is not simply a marginalization of the economically disadvantaged, but a burial of the experience world of people who have created meaning on the land over a long period of time with shared history. In short, I would like to emphasize that such extreme social conflict cannot simply be explained as social production caused by recession in the real estate market. Rather, the current conflicts in the redevelopment of areas in major cities throughout Korea reveal that the Hapdong redevelopment system no longer fits appropriately into Korea's vision of urban ecology. The Hapdong redevelopment system, born within a developmental perspective during the modernization era, may be showing that an aspect of its reality has become fixated on a form of uncontrollable pursuit of profit. The historical process in which the spread of apartment complexes, a Western style of housing, was brought into Korea and became the preferred choice of housing, has driven decisions about urban development and its practical processes. The Hapdong redevelopment system has been the most influential structure in the history of the urbanization of Korea. In every sense, residents’ resistance to redevelopment projects can be considered property rights protection, but their responses and activities eventually will be evaluated within a critical discussion of the socio-technical system called Hapdong redevelopment. With this case study, I have presented my reflections on the redevelopment policy of South Korea in conjunction with the attitudes of residents of one area designated for redevelopment, by focusing on the market-driven nature of the destruction and rebuilding activities and the failure of planners to resettle original residents. In particular, I found that community development practices in the Bukahyeon-dong area have been influenced by the real estate market and changes in redevelopment policies. 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Google Scholar Crossref Search ADS © Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. 2017 All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)
Community Development Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 1, 2018
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