Seoul / Gangnam: The City of Four Tools (1990-2000) : 4-2 Renaming the backstreets

Figure 1 Photo of Café Street at Bangbae-dong, Gangnam District, Up: 11.30pm Down:12.30am (from 1990.02.02 Kyung Hyang Newspaper)

Entertainment industries in Gangnam, no matter if they were becoming a headache for the original residents or not, were enjoying their heydey. However, their days of glory were also coming to an end. Beginning of 1990 was the coldest winter for nightclubs and bars of Gangnam District. It was the turning point of government’s attitude towards the prosperous nightlife entertainment. Now that enough people were gathered in Gangnam District, backstreet full of nightlife was no longer a tool to develop the area, but instead a trouble that had to be taken away. The policy of Late Night Business Restriction was the first method to close all the bars at 12 am. (1990, Kyung Hyang Newspaper)[1] However, the government was not satisfied with only shortening their hours of operation. They searched for a bigger area of transformation.







Figure 2 Apgujeong-dong street full of young people (from 1992.03.01 Kyung Hyang Newspaper)

In 1992, 13200-square-meter area of Apgujeong-ro(路) was selected as Clean-Up Area by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.(Hangyeore, 1992)[2] To carry out this implementation, Gangnam District Office started off by entitling backstreets with new names. The 3.6-kilometer-long road between Apgujeong metro station and Cheongdam Cathedral was given the name of ‘Street of Family’. To ensure its identity, there had been a long process of changing store signs using foreign words to proper Korean. Special care was taken to Japanese style izakayas and karaokes which were not only accused of bad environment for teenagers nearby but of spreading the inappropriate culture that was against that of Korean.(Kyung Hyang Newspaper, 1992)[3] Idea of the family-friendly street was continued by Apgujeong Culture Festival raised by residents and merchant communities. The street itself became the stage for the western jazz and hip hop dance, together with Korean traditional percussion quartet.(Kyung Hyang Newspaper, 1993)[4] It became an annual event to redefine the type of entertainment Apgujeong could provide.

Figure 3 Colored is the Apgujeong Fashion Street. (from 1996.05.02 Donga Ilbo)


Figure 4 Colored is the designated Apgujeoong Fashion Street. 1996.05.02 Donga Ilbo
Figure 5 Beginning of Apgujeong Rodeo Street during mid 1990s

In 1996, an adjacent street that is 42-meter-long and 10-to-22-meter-wide was declared as ‘Street of Fashion’ or ‘Rodeo Street(named after Rodeo Drive at Beverley Hills)’. Once an epitome of nightlife pleasure only 1 to 2 years ago, Rodeo Street was filled with luxury imported brands and designer stores, replacing karaoke bars and nightclubs. By 1996 already 65% of the stores were turned into those of fashion-related.(Statistics, 1996)[5] Moreover, the 1,400-kilometer-length-road led from Apgujeong metro station to the Rodeo Street was better paved and maintained as part of the 1998’s Seoul City Hall movement to transform Seoul into a ‘walkable city’.(Jung,2013)[6] Flying advertisements from the bars and shouts of calling for speed-dating that were scattered all over backstreets of Apgujeong were nowhere to be seen.








[1] “One Month After Late Night Business Restriction Implemented <1> Bars and Clubs.” Kyung Hyang Newspaper, February 02, 1990.

[2] “Gangnam Apgujeong-ro Maintenance.” Hangyeore, November 04, 1992.

[3] “Signs written in Japanese taken down.” Kyung Hyang Newspaper, November 04, 1992.

[4] “Apgujeong Culture Festival Wide Open.” Kyung Hyang Newspaper, February 21, 1993.

[5] Apgujeong Fashion Street Consultative Coucil. May 04, 1996. Raw data.

[6] Jung, In Sook. “Gangnam’s Cultural Street.” The Encyclopedia of Gangnam-gu. 2013.

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