Sewoon Sangga (1966-1976) / 4. Controversy on Sewoon Project Initaition

Seun Sangga, also known as the Sewoon Arcade, was a solution to the informal social slums and housing problem associated with the rapid growth in the population, one reason being a significant increase in the number of immigrants from surrounding cities, in the city of Seoul. Designed by Korean architect Kim Swoo-Geun, the me

gastructure of commercial and housing complexes was “one of the modern projects of South Korea in the 1960s during the time of the nation’s rapid modernisation period within Cheonggye stream district” (Paek, 2008). The Seun Sangga was also believed to have become “one of the government’s top-down administrative powers in which the voices of the individuals were not reflected at all” as the project took a rather aggressive approach to solve the social problems and it was forcefully carried out by the government of Park Jung-Hee by taking political actions to take down slumps (Paek, 2008). Controversy then occurred upon the initiation of the Sewoon project.

slum area on state-owned land (1960s), Son, J.M, 2009,book 1, p 255 / Seoul Metropolitan City
slum area on state-owned land (1960s), Son, J.M, 2009,book 1, p 255 / Seoul Metropolitan City
slum area in Inhyeun-dong (1966), Son, J.M, 2009,book 1, p 255 / Seoul Metropolitan City
slum area in Inhyeun-dong (1966), Son, J.M, 2009,book 1, p 255 / Seoul Metropolitan City

Past Korean president Park Jung-hee, at MAPO Apartment completion ceremony in Seoul (1962) said that “Urbanization of excessive population is leading to rising land prices and housing shortage, so it is absolutely required is to construct high-rise apartment to use the space more effectively in the future”. This quote illustrated his stance towards building high rise megastructure to resolve the problem of shortages of land and resources.

In the 1960s after WWII and the Korean War, Seoul was in a chaotic state as policies were not effective and immediate. Immigrants and the less privileged occupied state-owned lands and built slum areas in within. These heavily populated urban informal settlement caused problems such as bad hygiene and public health, as well as high crime rates. As a solution the government of Park Jung-hee, with the joint effort of Kim Hyon-ok and Kim Swoo-Geun, introduced the project of Seun Sangga as one of the first large-scale housing and commercial complexes to bring discipline and wealth to the district thus the city. During the time of the project construction, there were over 2000 squatters, who were originally living in the slum areas within the district, being cleared out. It was believed that Kim opposed the power of the Central Urban Planning Committee at that time to undertake such an action. Some criticised that such an aggressive action taken by the government was against the power and right of citizens as people’s opinions on this issue was not respecte          hat time had pushed forward the development of the country. However, rights of the people, espec ially war refugees and the less privileged, might had been disrespected or even ignored, taking the forceful clearance of slums for the construction of the Seun Sangga as an example. It illustrated that  it might always be a controversy and struggle to pick between efficient and aggressive construction an d peaceful actions with respect to citizens’ rights when introducing an urban planning scheme.

Reference:
Paek, S. (2008). Korean Commercial Architecture: An Alternative Narrative of Modern Architecture. University of Cincin nati.

Song. Ryul. A Study on the Development Process of Korea’s Modern  Architecture, Ph.D. degree dissertation, Seoul national university, 1993.

Jung. Inha. The Architecture of Kim Soo Geun. Migunsa, 1996.

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