Seoul / How the Japanese occupation shaped the city of Seoul – Urban housing

The 20th century has been a tumultuous period for Korea and its capital Seoul which encountered fundamental changes in its build environment since the beginning of the century. In the early 1900s, only 200,000 people were living in Seoul. The urban population has increased from 3% to 80% in less than 100 years. This important change goes with transformation of the capital, which was still very precarious in 1900 into a completely modern society. Even if this modernity started one century after modernity in Europe, it influenced the city much more rigorously. Indeed, constructions in Seoul never really stopped since buildings were frequently destroyed. However the city kept on expanding.

Expansion of Seoul
Expansion of Seoul

Until the Industrial revolution, most of people were living in independent houses, this pattern of spatial dispersion dictated the forms of everyday life, but with the increasing population, urban population had to accept living in large scale housing complexes and high-rise buildings. This transition has known three phases, whose first occured during the colonial period where the country undergo both colonial exploitation and colonial modernization. The latter involved many changes, especially in the housing sector. Indeed, the necessary housing shortage caused the developement of new housing types which were denser and healthier to avoid the spreading of diseases. Modernity also created new lifestyles especially with the emergence of a new middle class based on the nuclear family and its intimacy. Finally, the modern housing needed to be equipped with heating systems and hygienic facilities. Korea, as well as all the other developing countries underwent these changes progressively. Koreans weren’t ready to completely leave their traditional houses and habits so they adopted a hybrid lifestyle mixing tradition and modernity. The result of this necessary hybridization has been the development of the modern hanok in the 1930s, a kind of house allowing traditional lifestyle and integrating modern elements.

Urban hanok
Urban hanok

As in many colonies, korean traditional houses did not survive the colonial modernization, during the Japanese occupation the urban fabric of Seoul are mixing different styles including western-style houses (which were summer houses or missionary houses), japanese-style houses (built for the japanese settlers) and urban hanok. The number of Japanese inhabitant largely increased between 1910 and 1945, from 20,000 to 700,000.

Japanese-style houses
Japanese-style houses

Above,  the four types of floor plans in use for Japanese-style houses : tsuzukima, genkanhiroma, doritoma, nakaroka. A variant among them, the machiya has became the predominant plan during the colonial period because of it capacity to shelter high population density, it has been largely spread in the colonies. A typical building would contain four to sever machiya of 3.9m x 12.5-16.2m.


Reference:

Inha Jung (2013), Architecture and Urbanism in Modern Korea, University of Hawai’i Press