Seoul / Cheonggyecheon as a Highway – the city of Seoul in the Post-colonial Era

Map of Seoul © 1996, Shan Ju Publishing Co. Ltd
Map of Seoul © 1996, Shan Ju Publishing
Co. Ltd

In 1968, an elevated expressway was built over the covered up Cheonggyecheon (highlighted in blue), giving it a new identity as an important geographical connector of the eastern and western side of the city centre with high speed and efficiency. From this map of Seoul in 1996, it is indicated how this highway was passing through some central business districts such as Myeongdong in the West and Dongdaemun in the east. At this time in the late 1990s, there were almost 170000 vehicles passing this expressway every day.


The Cheonggye elevated expressway, as a massive concrete structure spanning over 10 kilometers across the city centre, brought a significant change to the urban fabric. Following this construction, other architectural works with an urban scale significance were also pushed forward. They include the construction of the Samil Building and the Seun Complex, which can be considered as a topographical response to the Cheonggyecheon at that time.


The Samil building (highlighted as the red square) is of 31-storey tall, and was the highest building in Seoul at that time. As an identifying landmark of that post-colonial modern era, it is constructed at a location marking the entrance of the elevated highway. Meanwhile, the Seun Complex (highlighted as the four red rectangles), are a mega complex of 1 kilometer long, comprising of four buildings in total. It was one of the earlier examples of a mega urban redevelopment projects serving both residential and commercial uses. They run along the north-south axis perpendicular to the Cheonggye highway. As seen from the figure below, the impact it brought to the urban fabric was very strong. Together with the Cheonggye expressway, the significance they brought to city went beyond the physical aspect, reaching a symbolic level signifying another era of Seoul.

Samil Building (Kal, 2011)
Samil Building (Kal, 2011)
Seun Complex (The Korean Blog, 2012)
Seun Complex (The Korean Blog, 2012)


  1. Hancheng shi zhong xin tu = Seoul, environs. Shan Ju Publish Co. Ltd. 1996.
  2. Kal, Hong. (2011) Aesthetic Constructions of Korean Nationalism: Spectacle, Politics, and History. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon [England]; New York: Routledge

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