Seoul / Gangnam: The City of Four Tools (1990-2000) 1-3 Apgujeong-dong: the distinctions and class inequality of consumption spaces

Apgujeong-dong: the distinctions and class inequality of consumption spaces

 

Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong, as leading areas of fashion design in the Gangnam district, are places of diverse cultural infrastructure.  ‘Rodeo Street’ in Apgujeong-dong is particularly central to fashion, life, shopping and culture, which should date back to the time when several famous fashion designers moved from Myeong-dong in the middle 1980s. The gathering of fashion designers triggered the formation of a luxury goods consumer zone with the emergence of luxury cafes and boutiques. [1] And this cultural and commercial emergence further influence the type of consumerism within this area. It is the result of the policies that divided Seoul diversely in terms of function since rapid development boom in the 1970s. [2] And as spaces are functionally divided, the distinct “cities within a city” came into existence unavoidably.

As Lee stated in his article Consuming Spaces in the Global Era:

“Apgujeong-dong as an upscale consumer space is distinguished from other downscale residential ones, and the Guro industrial estate area, recently transformed into a new digital industrial estate of the Internet and IT, is distinguished from Seongsu-dong and its vicinity, which remain a traditional manufacturing production area. Large-scale middle-class residential areas like Sanggye-dong are distinguished from Jamsil and Dogok-dong and their vicinities, which are upscale housing areas now riding atop a redevelopment boom.” [3]

And under that planning method, distinctions between spaces strengthened their respective independence, which further leads to the distinction of class within those spaces. Seoul is turning into a dual space containing both distinctions and contradictions. “Seoul can be divided into consumer spaces like Apgujeong-dong, production spaces like Guro-dong, and housing spaces like Sanggye-dong.” In other words, spaces in Seoul are classified and identified by class-based differences while being divided by functional differences. And among these spatial aspects, the spatial distinction with the emergence of the post-modern consumer culture can reflect the dual nature of Seoul. [4]

The concept of “distinction”,  borrowed by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, means that the distinction of lifestyles or cultural tastes that contain class distinctions. [5] The distinction of consumer space, such as ‘Rodeo Street’  as a consumerism space for upper class and Dongdaemun Shopping mall for the middle class, always exists. Although large-scale shopping malls, discount stores and entertainment spaces are built in suburbs in Seoul, this trend of decentralization of consumer spaces in downtown cannot dissolve the distinction of consumer subjects, their class inequalities or the living areas they live.

The decentralization of consumer spaces and distinctions in consumer spaces in Seoul reflects the spatial logic that indicates a dual urbanization of Seoul “as a third world metropolis”. And Apgujeong-dong, as the symbolic consumer space of Gangnam, was the product of an urban development policy undertaken by dictatorial regimes since the 1970s and was an icon of surplus consumer culture starting to emerge during the 1990s. The two issues of “developmental dictatorship” and consumer culture are related. And as a result, Apgujeong-dong, this upper-class consumer space, is “closely tied to the reproduction process of vested interests derived from Korea’s developmental dictatorship power”. [6] And whether those developmental dictatorships focused on expanding the reproduction of consumer capital rather than solving class equalities and distinction in living area should be critically evaluated.

 

[1]  Jeong Insuk. The Streets of Gangnam Where Culture Flows. Retrieved from:

http://e-gangnam.grandculture.net/Contents?local=e-gangnam&dataType=01&contents_id=EC04800016

[2] Lee Dong Yeun. 2002. Consuming Spaces in the Global Era: Distinctions between Consumer Spaces in Seoul. Vol.44. No.3 Autumn, 2004 pp.108~137

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] Pierre Bourdieu. 1994. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Harvard University Press.

[6] Lee Dong Yeun. 2002. Consuming Spaces in the Global Era: Distinctions between Consumer Spaces in Seoul. Vol.44. No.3 Autumn, 2004 pp.108~137

1 Comment on “Seoul / Gangnam: The City of Four Tools (1990-2000) 1-3 Apgujeong-dong: the distinctions and class inequality of consumption spaces

  1. This article provides a very interesting perspective to read into Seoul through its distinctive urban ‘consumer-scapes’.It is a very interesting idea that behind the distinctive nature of different consumer space lies a whole set of questions about class, social inequality and so on.It is also worth noticing that how today architecture is devised for consumerism, and just by mapping out the spaces that are being air-conditioned and those are not, we will be able to come up with a map to understand class inequalities – as the higher class is always privileged with ‘conditioned’ space while the lower class are more often confined to the ‘conditional’ space.

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