Seoul / Gangnam : The City With Four Tools (1990-2000) 3-3 Contrast Between the Rich and Poor

In Gangnam, the south of the Han River, the office buildings, the expensive shop restaurants and the shade – covered advanced residential areas are found everywhere. Gangnam is Seoul’s upper class communities, with the world luxury brand shop in the forefront. The luxury shopping district Cheongdam Dong, Apgujeong, lead the  avant-garde world fashion. However, it is less than 1 kilometers away from the Tower Palace of the highest residential building in South Korea, there lies a poor gathering area Guryong village, which remains more than 30 years, incompatible with the high-grade Gangnam District. The gap between rich and poor staggering. A row of uneven, hut in front of a densely connected one, not far from the high-rise Jiangnan District.

Brilliantly illuminated Seoul Gangnam District buildings and urban traffic

To prepare for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea has made large-scale development projects in the Gangnam area, and built a sound infrastructure, so that the Gangnam area has become the most prosperous business district and the most expensive residential area in South Korea.

Compared with the neat city of Seoul, there is a lot of rubbish everywhere, and some bad smell can be smelled from time to time in the air. The slanted huts are only one man high, all built with boards and tarpaulins, very shabby. Each row of huts is about 10 meters long. It is roughly divided into 4 to 5 rooms. There are more than 1 meters wide in each row of huts for people to go in and out. Many of the materials used to build these huts were billboards and tablets in the 1970s and 1980s, indicating the time that the village began to exist. The whole village was very quiet, and occasionally a few old people were sitting in front of their house. Compared with the bustling and noisy south of the Han River, this is just another world.

The winter in Seoul is very cold, and the residents of the city rely on natural gas to warm the ground for the winter. In the village of Guryong, winter became the most difficult season for the villagers. In addition, the villagers are always worried about the problem of homelessness. In July 2011, a storm triggered by a storm destroyed most of the sheds in the village of Guryong; in January 29, 2012, a fire destroyed many families.

The land in the village of Guryong was originally owned by private ownership. In order to rectify the city’s features for 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, many illegal dwellings were cleaned up, and some homeless people began to settle in the village of Guryong. The owner of the land didn’t take care of it at first. Later, there were more and more people living illegally, and eventually developed into a real slum. Now, the village of Guryong is the only remaining area in Gangnam the south of the Han River. In 2011, the Seoul municipal government issued a new plan for the development of the Guryong village. However, the scheme led to a strong protest from the villagers that the Seoul municipal government did not take into account the interests of the local residents. At present, the Seoul municipal government and the residents of the Guryong village are still negotiating on the problem of reconstruction.



  1. Jieheerah, Yun, Globalizing Seoul: The City’s Cultural and Urban Change (Planning, History and Environment Series), 1st Edition, Routledge, 2017.
  1. John Power, The other face of ‘Gangnam Style’: Inside the dirt poor Seoul slum made famous by South Korea pop king Psy’s ‘Eh, sexy lady’ video, Mailonline, 21 August 2015.
  1. Korean Culture and Information Service, Facts about Korea. Seoul: Hollym International, 2013.
  1. Pai, Hyungmin, and Hejung, Choi Helen, Imminent Commons: Commoning Cities: Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. Seoul: Actar, 2017.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.