Seoul / Gangnam: The City of Four Tools (1990-2000) : 1,2,3,4 Hyundai Department Store Apgujeong Branch(2)

The empty plot next to the Hyundai Department Store remained as a long-pending headache both for the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the related interest groups since it remained empty only to suggest different possible ideas that were never fulfilled. It failed to become a better medium between Hyundai Apartment and Hyundai Department Store, leaving a private residential area next to a highly public commercial space. However, the department store succeeded in surviving with strategies to make the most profit out of what was given to them.

Figure 1 Colored box showing proposed area for agricultural park, circle showing the location of Hyundai Department Store (from 1997.05.29 Hangyeore)

With the growing land value of Apgujeong, the establishment of school next to Hyundai Department Store, planned from the 1970s, could not be realized during 1990s. It led to Gangnam District’s decision in 1995 to request to Seoul Government for cancellation of the proposed zone for school. Residents of Hyundai apartment and nearby merchants instead envisioned a park where the nearby residents could use, with the parking lot being installed underground. However, the government responded with a disapproval and kept the school zone. The government said, “The act of canceling the school zone and constructing a park will give a special advantage to the nearby department store.”(Hangyeore, 1996)[1] However, soon in 1997, the empty plot was seen as a possibility to fulfill Seoul’s Five-Year Urban Green Space Plan that aimed for ensuring 3m2 of green area per person for all the citizens. It came up with a plan to build an agricultural park, instead of a parking lot. Gangnam Although traffic congestion and lack of parking space was the main issue among residents, the government still disapproved the underground parking lot, since a huge amount of money would be put into deconstruction if the future school gets to be built.(Hangyeore, 1997)[2] Both plans were not realized eventually, but it was definite that the department store was enjoying all the benefit it could get from the parking lot. Biggest screen ever made in Korea, with the size of 23.4 meters in width and 10.2 meters in height, was attached to the building wall to transform the parking lot into drive-in theatre for two days during the night.(Maeil Economics, 1997)[3]


Figure 2 Hyundai Department Store seen from pedestrian (from 1990.10.01 MBC News)
Figure 3 Hyundai Department Store(from 1986 Architecture and Culture vol.56)

The proximity of Hyundai Department Store to Hyundai Apartment was another byproduct of the urban planning that residents and the store dealt with. From the day the store had opened in 1985, residents had been issuing problems made due to the store building. The heating system of the store emitted smoke from the fifth-floor-rooftop chimney which affected twelve-stories units of the apartment. Interior of the units facing the store became dirty and residents raised health issue. Big glass window from the fifth-floor food court violated their privacy and neon sign on the façade refrained them from sleeping at night. Noise pollution from the cars and whistling security guards added more discomfort. Thus, the residents asked for installing the soundproof wall, but the store insisted that they were following building regulation which was ensuring 100-meter-distance between them.(Donga Ilbo, 1985)[4] For the department store, such intimacy with the residents was its opportunity to serve them with entertainment. 66m2-sized art gallery on lower ground second floor and 300m2 of space for a contemporary art exhibition on the fifth floor was installed by Hyundai Gallery.(Maeil Economics, 1985)[5] It also became a venue for a performance by Seoul Pops Orchestra, which added to the effort of CEO trying to make department store as a new type of retail that serves high-class culture and best service to the customers.(Lee, 1999)[6]


Figure 4 Shopping mall that has sunken garden often changes into a performance stage to entertain customrers (from 1986 Architecture and Culture vol.56)

[1] “Removal of cancelling school zone near Hyundai Deparment Store .” Hangyeore, January 20, 1996.

[2] “Conflict between park VS underground parking lot for the future usage of Apgujeong parking lot.” Hangyeore, May 29, 1997.

[3] “Watching movie in your car at department store parking lot.” Maeil Economics, January 23, 1997.

[4] “Department Store next to Hyundai and Hanyang Apartment : Noise and traffic congestion … Big Threat to the Residents.” Donga Ilbo, December 06, 1985.

[5] “Cultural space near subway station.” Maeil Economics, November 19, 1985.

[6] “Interview with Byung-tak Lee CEO of Hyundai Department Store Apgujeong.” Maeil Economics, November 04, 1999.

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