SEOUL / Walkability as Covering Up Tool: Prioritization in Seoul

As part of the project, 17 new connections have been built connecting to locations around the Seoullo 7017 including Seoul Station, airport express terminal, bus terminal, parks and hotel. [Figure 1]. The Seoullo 7017 acts as a most notable and highly publicized architectural landmark in the gate of Seoul, welcoming visitors from all around the world.

[Figure 1] Map of major connections along Seoullo 7017
Seoul government highlighted the success of shaping a national image for Seoull0 7017, but ignored its original vision, which was to regenerate the district along Namdaemun and other old communities and to revitalize them. According to Kwon Ki-ho, chairman of the local association of shoemakers, Seoul Metropolitan government initially promised them to build a branch connecting Seoullo 7017 and the sidewalk near the street next to their communities. With the new connection, they believed that a potential increase in pedestrian traffic and customers would be brought. However, the plan changed with no compensation and offered no alternatives. There is no ramp or staircase down to the communities after the construction of Seoullo 7017.[1] Moreover, the stores, coffee shops and restaurant sprouted up the surrounding neighbourhoods, bringing transitional chain stores to a vibrant local community. [2] The Seoul government prioritized the places where is good enough for tourist instead of old communities.

[Figure 2] Protest Banners on Yeomcheon Bridge “Build a new path from the 2017 Flower Road to Handmade Shoe Street” (Left) and “Let’s Ruin Park Won-Soon’s life and dreams too” (Right)
In addition, the Seoul government tried to make use of walkability to showcase or hide specific spaces in Seoul, controlling the impression of Seoul from the tourists. For example, walkable site Sewoon Sangga is chosen to be an exhibition space of Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism from late 2017 to early 2018. In the brochure, a map connecting Sewoon Sangga to Jongmyo Shrine and Namsan Tower can be found, guiding tourists to these locations. [Figure 3][3]

[Figure 3] Brochure of Sewoon Sangga in Seoul Biennale
All walkability projects are targeted local people in the very beginning. However, by prioritizing the target group from tourist to global visitors, these projects lose their intention for meeting local people’s need and become a political power for the politician to showcase their ability to Korea and the world.

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[1] Ben Jackson, “Seoullo 7017: Urban Asset or Vanity Project?”, Korea Expose, May 20, 2017, https://www.koreaexpose.com/seoullo-urban-asset-vanity-project/

[2] Marina Brenden, “Not Another High Line”, SEOUL Magazine, June 2017, p.8-16, https://books.google.com.hk/books?id=8EQmDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA17&dq=Seoullo+7017&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi7voT7_qnfAhXJa94KHUMzAs8Q6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=Seoullo%207017&f=false

[3] Marieke Schmidt. “Shaping Seoul Employing Heritage in the Urban Regeneration Projects Seoullo 7017 and Again Sewoon” Asian Studies, Critical Heritage Studies, Leiden University, 2018, https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/63787/Thesis%20Repository.pdf?sequence=1

2 Comments on “SEOUL / Walkability as Covering Up Tool: Prioritization in Seoul

  1. I guess it was first a fascinating project for the citizens to also experience their own city through this elevated walkway. However it was tragic that the intention shifted to the economic value of Seoul. This is similar to the case in Dubai where the government only projects what they want the world to see and hide refugee spaces inside the city. This passage brings in a question on how to balance between the local concerns and global views. This also related to the preposition of the citizen in urban planning, more involvements or attentions should be given back to what the city really needs to make it functional.

  2. The question of whether the government builds for the local or builds for its own financial interests from tourists is a continuous issue of Seoul. This project is also a way to start boosting the city’s image to a global stage. The government initially found an international architects firm MVRDV to design and renovate this highway bridge already shows that it is not only just a renovation project but also a project to promote the city and use this as a city landmark. It, of course, has the functions to open up the walkability between different zones at central Seoul, but it is also an icon for promotion. So this project is only whether it is only local or only global, but its a trick to achieve various goals.

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