One late Sunday afternoon (march 7, 2010) – with Anna‘s invitation, I went to see Okin Apt Project in my neighborhood. Coincidently, my cousin who just finished his master’s in urban planning and management from Hawaii was visiting Seoul so I invited him to join (& we can catch up at the same time) He obviously had no idea where he was getting to but, happily took a small neighbor-bus to go to Okin-dong. Okin Apt was built in 1971 and located right under Inwang Mountain therefore, it had great views of Seoul and mountain area in every direction. The rich real estate developers won’t miss this hot spot… to demolish this old and low-income residents and build new luxury condo buildings.
The Okin-apt Project was an interesting art platform as it invites visitors to experience the reality of situation with lesser interfere of artists. It has documentary, stage-like and surreal quality to it. It is a form of analog experiential media, following current trend of specific space and site being artistic expression. What I paid attention was details of space that are being demolished. How often do we get to visit all the houses in the same buildings? especially where they are all stripped out inside to be demolished? Each space contained different stories. With their funny looking wall papers, wall paints and found objects- tags like airline baggage tags, personal photos. Some space was as if it was a stage set for a play. My experience of wandering these gutted apartments for few hours were filled with dusty smell, nerve-wracking sound of stepping on broken glasses and balancing on half broken stairs; contrasting beautifully open view of Inwang mountains and Seoul downtown.
Okin apt buildings were built in 70’s style – low budget, boxy in concrete and cheap paint finish. These project buildings were known to be lowering the city’s esthetic quality but, they were not too old to be demolished. They could kept the old historical quality and renovate them… in my pure artistic observation. It seems like many 20-100 years old buildings are being demolished under the name of redevelopment too easily in this city and it’s becoming very rare to find the real history of the city. In a long run, historical value could raise capital rather than modern high rise buildings. With high rise buildings, they will have to build bigger roads for the residents’ cars and it will result more demolition of small mom & pop’s stores and traditional markets.
Sadly, demolishing these low income families’ residents are effecting people who were living in low rental plans, poor residents – It would be very difficult for them to find places to live anywhere else in Seoul with the same rent they were spending. They will have to migrate to cheaper neighborhood. The owners of these redeveloping apartments would make more revenue if they have extra money to reinvest in new development and if not, they will be compensated for whatever their demolishing apartments are being valued. I don’t want to open a can of worms with my limited knowledge on redevelopment plans in Seoul but, I’m just writing my personal limited observation here.