Streets as Spaces of Community Building: A Case Study of Urban Regeneration in Samdeok Maeul, Seoul

Asian Studies, 6(2), pp. 231-251
Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana | Ljubljana | 2018 | ISSN 2232-5131

Streets play rather diverse roles in the everyday lives of cities, which have changed considerably in recent decades. The South Korean capital of Seoul is no exception in this regard. Streets once used to be traditional centres of social and economic life, which thus affected the urban structure and identity of the city. The rapid growth of motorised traffic along with market-driven urban development gradually transformed the streets into traffic corridors, with a very limited role in reproducing and maintaining the communal life in localities. The Seoul Metropolitan Government and civil society, however, recently increased their efforts to improve walkability and recover streets as a part of public life in the city. The urban regeneration of Samdeok Maeul is an example of these efforts, where street renewal was carried out with of an aim of raising the quality of the living environment as well as enhancing community building. The case study of Samdeok Maeul can in this regard contribute to a better understanding of streets as spaces of community building as well as community-based urban regeneration, and the role of different stakeholders in it. The research results show that urban regeneration strengthened the communal importance of streets in Samdeok Maeul, which was mainly a result of civic participation in urban regeneration rather than the actual street renewal. Partnerships, which are in this way established between public institutions, civil society and residents, could lead towards socially more inclusive, just and sustainable urban development in Seoul and beyond.

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Transformation of deprived urban areas and social sustainability: A comparative study of urban regeneration and urban redevelopment in Barcelona and Seoul

Urbani izziv, 29(1), pp. 30-41
Urbanistični inštitut RS | Ljubljana | 2014 | ISSN 0040-3598

The transformation of deprived urban areas is important for strengthening social sustainability in particular localities, and it is also instrumental in attracting new investments to cities. Speculative urban development, however, often ignores the social importance of localities and considers them mere economic assets that can be stripped of historical, social, and symbolic meaning and turned into easily marketed commodities. This article examines the somewhat contradictory role of the transformation of deprived urban areas in cities. It compares Barcelona and Seoul, two cities with different historical, cultural, and institutional contexts. The 22@ Activity District in Poblenou and Wangsimni New Town are explored as case studies to understand how urban regeneration and urban redevelopment are embedded in a particular locality and what consequences they have on social sustainability. Although the two cases differ in terms of planning approach, stakeholders, and institutional contexts, the findings suggest that the consequences for social sustainability were similar in both. The article argues that declining social cohesion and a lack of citizen participation were a consequence of speculative urban development, in which urban regeneration and urban redevelopment were instrumentalized to attract investments, strengthen economic competitiveness, and improve the city’s global appeal rather than address diverse local challenges.

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Comparing Transformation of Deprived Mixed-Use Areas in Seoul: Community Building in Traditional Industrial Clusters

With Cho Ha-young
The Entrepreneurial City, pp. 370-381
Hendrik Tieben, Yan Geng, Francesco Rossini (eds.)
International Forum on Urbanism and The Chinese University of Hong Kong | Hong Kong | 2017 | ISBN 978-962-8272-33-4

Cities in East Asia are some of the world’s largest urban agglomerations. Their growth is a result of rapid economic and urban development, where little attention was paid to the environmental or social consequences in the past. In the aftermath of the global economic slowdown, these approaches do not work anymore, and cities are faced with growing social and economic uncertainties. Local governments are thus looking for new urban policies to address these uncertainties in a more comprehensive and sustainable way. Seoul is no exception in this regard. Seoul Metropolitan Government introduced new urban policies, which aim to strengthen social cohesion and contribute to more sustainable economic and urban development. Urban regeneration of deprived urban areas plays a key role in these efforts.

This study takes Sangwangsimni and Haebangchon in Seoul as a case study to better understand the changing approaches of Seoul Metropolitan Government to transform deprived mixed-used areas and consequences of these approaches on traditional industries. The authors have conducted policy analysis and in-depth interviews with residents, local business, civic groups, experts and public officials, involved in the transformation of both localities. The research results show that the local government failed to recognise the importance of traditional industries in Sangwangsimni, which led to their decline. In Haebangchon, on the contrary, traditional industries are recognised as important assets, which will be preserved. This change came largely as a result of an emerging partnership between the local government and different stakeholders in the locality.

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Community-based Urban Development: Evolving Urban Paradigms in Singapore and Seoul

With Cho Im Sik
Springer | Singapore | 2017 | ISBN 978-981-10-1985-2

Community-based Urban DevelopmentThe book compares different approaches to urban development in Singapore and Seoul over the past decades, by focusing on community participation in the transformation of neighbourhoods and its impact on the built environment and communal life. Singapore and Seoul are known for their rapid economic growth and urbanisation under a strong control of developmental state in the past. However, these cities are at a critical crossroads of societal transformation, where participatory and community-based urban development is gaining importance. This new approach can be seen as a result of a changing relationship between the state and civil society, where an emerging partnership between both aims to overcome the limitations of earlier urban development. The book draws attention to the possibilities and challenges that these cities face while moving towards a more inclusive and socially sustainable post-developmental urbanisation. By applying a comparative perspective to understand the evolving urban paradigms in Singapore and Seoul, this unique and timely book offers insights for scholars, professionals and students interested in contemporary Asian urbanisation and its future trajectories.

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Recovering streets as communal space in localities: Urban regeneration of Samdeok Town in Seoul

With Park Hayun
Crossroads: Asian Streets in the Dynamics of Change, pp. 8-17
Heng Chye Kiang, Zhang Ye (eds.)
School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore | Singapore | 2016 | ISBN 978-981-11-1812-8

Cities are faced with growing social and economic disparities, environmental problems and political tensions, which erode their capacity to effectively cope with social, economic and environmental risks. Community-based urban regeneration has been recognised as one of the key approaches that can help cities to achieve a socially inclusive and environmentally balanced urban development. While different views exist on the role of communal space for successful urban regeneration, recovery of local streets, plazas or parks is recognised to play a vital role in bringing together residents with different economic, social and cultural backgrounds. This is seen as an important step towards sustainable development of cities.

Seoul Metropolitan Government has recently placed community building and urban regeneration at the centre of their efforts to address social, economic and environmental challenges in the city. Community-based urban regeneration is expected to improve built environment as well as restore communal life and shared identities in localities. In result, there is also a growing interest in Seoul in recovering streets as spaces of everyday life.

This paper explores urban regeneration of Samdeok Town to understand the changing role of streets as communal space in localities. By taking the Residential Environment Management Project as a case study, this research focuses on how the community-building and urban regeneration affect perception of streets among the residents and their appropriation of streets as communal space in Samdeok Town. The authors conducted extensive fieldwork and attended community workshops as well as interviews with several residents, urban planners, community activists and researchers. The research results show that the perception of streets has been largely changed and the residents have successfully recovered them as their communal space, which played the key role in successful community-based urban regeneration of Samdeok Town.

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Lessons from Wangsimni: Traditional industrial clusters in Seoul as social and cultural assets

Beyond Seun-Sangga: 16 Ideas to go beyond big plans, pp. 124-143
Hyeri Park, Vitnarae Kang (eds.)
Space Books | Seoul | 2015 | ISBN 979-11-87071-00-6

beyond seun-sangga

The Seun Arcade area is one of the remaining traditional industrial clusters in downtown Seoul. Most of these clusters date back to the early modern or even pre-modern times and were established along the major roads of Jongno, Euljiro and the former Cheonggye Expressway. Due to the continued transformation of downtown Seoul over the past few decades, many of these original clusters have already disappeared. Their transformation has often been legitimised as a seemingly unavoidable improvement of what were seen as economically underdeveloped or underused, socially decayed, unsafe or even dangerous urban areas. These places were at the same time portrayed as the unsightly legacy of South Korea’s developmentalist past, which should be eradicated and replaced by a new efforts in urban development.

Over many years of on-going urban redevelopment, these traditional industrial cluster have rarely been recognised as important social and cultural assets. Traditional industrial clusters are not only productive, but also dense social networks, which are largely based on thick interpersonal bonds of trust, a strong sense of solidarity among the member, and a shared communal culture. At the same time, the traditional industrial clusters also form distinct cultural forms, which express a particular history of the city, as well as of citizens and their everyday life.

Wangsimni is perhaps not the most representative of many traditional industrial clusters in Seoul. Nevertheless, it had a rather long history of small-sized industrial site. Small workshops, mostly for the metal industry, used to be integrated with larger productive and social networks. Industry has always been deeply intertwined with the everyday life of the area. In this sense, the transformation of Wangsimni offers valuable lessons about traditional industrial clusters, unfortunately now lost, along with its associated communal culture and everyday life, as a results of large-scale urban redevelopment.

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Social cohesion and community gardens: comparing Slovenia and South Korea

Model Transfer of Social Ecology into Asian Territory, pp. 38-47
Alban Mannisi (eds.)
Zzac Book | Seoul | 2015 | ISBN 978-2-9535437-1-1

social ecologyCommunity gardens have gained a lot of attention over past years as an instrument of community-driven urban design, which can help cities address their social, economic and environmental problems. Although South Korea and Slovenia have not much in common at first sight, the Community Eco Urban Garden in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, may provide a valuable example of not only how urban gardening improves the well-being of individuals, but also of how to integrate urban gardens into community-driven urban design in order to address larger social problems, such as lacking social cohesion and civic participation. Community gardens might be small in size, but they can play an important role in addressing negative social consequences of neoliberal policy, strengthening of social cohesion, and contributing to sustainable urban development.

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Local responses to market-driven urban development in global cities

Teorija in praksa, 51.special edition, pp. 221-240
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana | Ljubljana | 2014 | ISSN 0040-3598

Urban development has become an important instrument of neoliberal urban policy by which cities are trying to respond to global pressures and opportunities. Barcelona and Seoul are taken as case studies with different historical, cultural and institutional background, yet similar when it comes to how neoliberal urban policy and market-driven urban development are embedded into particular localities. The paper compares transformation of Poblenou in Barcelona and Wangsimni in Seoul in terms of planning approach, consequences on the everyday life in locality and local responses to market-driven urban development. Although its outcomes in Poblenou and Wangsimni were rather similar, the local responses were quite different. While the residents in Poblenou saw transformation of the neighbourhood as a threat to their collective identity, the residents in Wangsimni initially perceived it as an opportunity to improve their economic situation. The paper argues that local responses to market-driven urban development in this way reveal what Mlinar calls the mutual interdependence between individuation and globalisation. Although similar structural processes transform localities around the world, the later remain an important source of social and urban change in global cities.

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Social role of urban parks in global cities: a case study of Cheonggyecheon Restoration, Seoul and Diagonal Mar Park, Barcelona

Asian Urban Places, pp. 7-15
Heng Chye Kiang, Oscar Carracedo García-Villalba, Zhang Ye (eds.)
School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore | Singapore | 2014 | ISBN 978-981-09-3687-7

Provision of urban parks is considered to be an important instrument, which helps addressing social and territorial cohesion in global cities. Yet local governments strive to create new investment opportunities for global capital and provide spectacle for expanding tourism and cultural industries, which often makes urban parks into an instrument of competition between global cities rather than an effective approach, dealing with their social and environmental problems. Speculative urban development considers urban parks merely as an economic asset, which can be stripped off their social meanings, and turned into a commodity that can easily be marketed and consumed.

The paper compares Cheonggyecheon Restoration in Seoul and Diagonal Mar Park in Barcelona to explore the changing social role of urban parks as urban commons and meaningful communal space in global cities. Cheonggyecheon is a large urban park in the downtown Seoul, constructed after the Cheonggye Expressway was demolished and an ancient stream was recovered on its place. It quickly became a popular public space and a new tourist attraction in Seoul. Diagonal Mar Park, constructed on a former industrial site in Barcelona, is less centrally located and is one among many urban parks in the city. Although the two parks seem to have little in common at first sight, the paper argues that the instrumentalisation of Cheonggyecheon and Diagonal Mar Park, in order to improve economic competitiveness and global appeal in Seoul and Barcelona, has negatively affected their social role in a similar way.

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Transformation of Barcelona’s Eastern Waterfront: From the City Periphery to the Central Public Space in the City

City:Edge, pp. 51-59
Uroš Lobnik, Peter Šenk (eds.)
Založba Pivec & HAM Publications | Maribor | 2014 | ISBN 978-961-6897-65-5

The transformation of Barcelona’s eastern waterfront, between the Olympic Village, Poblenou and the new Forum, is a characteristic example of successful urban regeneration, where the former city periphery was developed into one of the central public spaces in the city. In order to fully understand urban regeneration process and its consequences on everyday life in the city, the paper examines both the urban planning approach and the historical and social background of the area. The large-scale transformation of the former periphery into a public space namely not only alters spatial relations, but it also affects social and symbolic relations in the city. The evolving civic awareness about importance of integrating the city periphery into everyday life in Barcelona contributed to the eventual success of urban regeneration.

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