First of all, I am really happy to take part in this trans-national networks’ discussion of contemporary urban space. I would introduce some of my previous projects and share with you some of the questions that inform my work:

During my residency at Flaggfabrikken in Bergen, I conducted interviews of local cultural workers, including artists, curators, designers, writers, musicians, dancers, and architects from different groups in the community, that I met randomly during my stay.
My project will develop from both an independent and a collaborative-basis. I would like, for instance, to invite local representatives from various disciplines within the community, including artists and cultural workers, to participate. The idea is to enable the invited cultural workers to make self-portraits as descriptions in words or through speaking (by using narrative), and for local participants and communities to produce and participate in art production. For example, as a departure point, participants will be invited to reply to questions: describing themselves, their work, their future plans and how cultural workers help with gentrification, urban renewal, the creation of a service economy, etc. What roles do/can the arts play in the city as social engagement?

I am fascinated by the renewal of housing and the accompanying neighborhood change represented by the gentrification of Seoul given that I witness it daily. For example, I'm sick of having a Starbucks, and a 24hour convenience store on every street corner of Seoul. Especially since this means I am losing my small corner shop where I used to go and buy milk, etc.

According to news reports, gentrification in Korea is still an ongoing process- and many parts of Seoul have undergone radical transformation in the last two decades. Low-income neighborhoods, poor people, rundown neighborhoods and their historic identities, are vanishing because of gentrification and urban redevelopment. In most cases, residents have been forced to sell and move out of their homes and small businesses due to increasing property taxes and irresistible offers from developers and an influx of rich residents. It is becoming common that there are no longer any of the original inhabitants left to enjoy any of the new benefits arising from the renovation of the area, but their absence also means that the character that made the area interesting for urban re- qualification is also lost.

I live in place where high-rise buildings block my view. This is commonplace for many citizens in Seoul, by the way. We have to put up with the noise of construction sites. Citizens lose their views, as the high-rises sprout up in front of their windows. The views continuously appear only to then disappear.
Fences like this one appear and disappear everyday.

These photos were taken in my neighborhood in Seoul/2007

The two photos above were taken from the other side of the fence – inside the construction site, slightly up on the hill.

There used to be two and three-story houses along this street but they are being torn down. I have spoken to local people who used to live in a house with garden, and they often say that they no longer feel comfortable living in the one or two-story houses because they wouldn’t be happy surrounded by the high-rise buildings or apartments. So they have either built their own modern looking four or five-story building or decided move out and into a new high-rise apartment. Imagine that if you do not want to become part of a high-rise block in the future, they will still block you in and you will either have to agree with the property developer or build your own building.
As artists, what can we contribute against this disappearance? For example, I was interested in collecting acts of looking out the window and not the window itself. I’ve randomly asked people (future participants) to take pictures of the views from their houses in various locations in Seoul. They often say they now have no view; another building is all there is.

Photo taken by Minsun Kim who lives on the south side of river in Seoul.

Minsun says:
“ When I look out the window of my place I see only two big high-rises. I can always see the rooms of residents who have left their curtains open during the night”

Home is a place concealed from the public eye but currently the view is invaded by another view. Whether you like it or not, you have to deal with it.
Looking back over only five years, I cannot help being astonished by how much the city of Seoul, as well as my own neighborhood, has changed.
Therefore, I’m investigating, seeking certain elements by taking a picture of a view at exactly the same place once every 6months, a year, or over many years and this view will have progressively changed by the effect of architects on the local. At the same time, in conjunction with this, I’m interested in recording the sounds of the same environment.
As a parallel approach, I’ve decided to begin comparing how 24hr convenience stores and the small corner shops in my neighborhood run their businesses.

Recently, in Yongsan in Seoul protesters occupied an apartment building. They were protesting against the idea of gentrifying this neighborhood.

Below is an article about this incident:

Six dead, many injured and arrested after police attack protestors near American Military Base.

“Yongsan in Seoul is to be "redeveloped", that is gentrified. This is affecting not only residents, but also many small family-run businesses in the area. Members of the Committee of Residents Forced Out of Yongsan District 4 in Seoul and the National Coalition of Forcefully Relocated People decided on Jan. 19 to occupy a building in protest. The developers want to build an International Monetary Center there.
The next morning, Jan. 20, the SWAT team commandos attacked before 6:45 AM. About 1300 police were mobilized into action against the 40 people in the building. About 100 commandos landed on the roof.
What happened next is not clear. Police claim that protestors were throwing Molotov cocktails and somehow the roof caught on fire because of this. But anybody who can recall a few similar situations knows that police have been known to start fires on rooftops to get the occupants out. The place went up in flames. 5 protestors and one police officer died. 28 people were arrested. 23 are injured, some seriously.
Families wanted to see the bodies of the victims but they were carried away without the families being granted access. It looks as if many of the victims were middle-aged, the oldest victim a 70-year old man. A large demonstration was held that night and demonstrators clashed with police. http://www.newscham.net/news/view.php?board=news&nid=51283
Disputes over gentrification are becoming more and more frequent in Seoul. I think it is normal. There is a lot of corruption and money involved and poor and working class residents are often ripped off as they are displaced usually with only a paltry compensation. http://libcom.org/news/seoul-police-attack-occupied-building-kill-protestors-21012009"

I’m currently collecting documents that address Urban renewal and neighborhood change: video footage, pictures, information, audio and text on the topic of gentrification. Do you have any media material about this topic? Would you like to share it with a community of similarly minded media-makers?

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