Monthly Archives: October 2011


In a move to give Seoul a makeover, previously lower class neighbourhoods are being rezoned into designated business and digital areas. The former Garibong Station has been rebranded “Gasan Digital Complex” and is now the home of many glass-walled high rise office towers and franchise restaurants. There are cranes and construction are everywhere, and the area around the subway station practically gleams.

Several kilometers to the South, however, is Gwangmyeong. Pushed up against the side of a small mountain, Gwangmyeong overlooks the developments around the Gasan station. The streets are typically small and bleak, and everything is uphill. I was told by a friend that this is an area where many lower class  immigrants settle, and the fact that there are only Chinese characters on the front of many apartments seems to confirm this.

Though Gwangmyeong is by no means a slum by global standards, it represents the gritty conditions many of Seoul’s citizens live in. As Koreans are often opposed to having lower class housing near their neighbourhoods, the government of Seoul generally tries to keep these places out of the public eye.

two soldiers walk through Gwangmyeong

CCTV cameras record the streets of the Chinese neighbourhoods

The characters on the entrance are Chinese, not Korean.

An elderly woman walks slowly up a steep hill.

the door on the right reads “paint”

laundry drying in an alley

A construction worker walks across a girder. The pay for manual labour is extremely low in Korea.

garbage stacked high along the streets






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Daerim Station

Seoul has never been accused of being an attractive city, and the area around Daerim Station on the East side is no exception. I am always fascinated by the cookie cutter architecture in this country, endless rows of tenement style apartments. Some are painted bright or pastel colours to give the illusion of cheer, but in general they are massively depressing. Walking around this neighbourhood I was aware of the fact that there were literally thousands of people in a one block radius, crammed into these homogenous monoliths. Seoul’s population density is nearly twice that of New York City (this neighbourhood in particular is listed by the Seoul Statistical Yearbook as having over 17 000 people per square kilometer) and I could really sense the weight of the crowding in this neighbourhood.

A pink sweater hanging off a balcony gives the only colour to the building

a grid of metal and bamboo scaffolding covers the metallic face of a construction site.

urban graffiti along a canal.

one of several identical buildings, housing thousands

twisting and rusty metro tracks approaching Sindorim Station, Eastern Seoul.

an attempt to add colour to this building seems to make the scene all the more dreary

the underbelly of an overpass, dark and gloomy


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