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.