[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]All’s not well in the hanok

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]All’s not well in the hanok

Your Aug. 27 story “A hanok village that’s not a museum” is not a bad article overall, and pretty informative. It’s just that this is the kind of spoon-fed material that most Korean journalists regurgitate. It puts any discerning reader off.
I would say the real reverse swing of the pendulum away from land speculation toward tearing down hanok for villa apartments only became noticeable two years or so ago. If the land was more valuable, I doubt that many of the surviving hanok would survive. There are architectural preservationists in the community, to be sure, but they tend to be far wealthier than most, which is sad but understandable.
To live a comfortable life in a hanok means just about destroying it and rebuilding it to bring it up to reasonable comfort levels. Most of the original hanok are badly deteriorating, genuine fire hazards and lacking in basic modern conveniences. As a result, it costs almost as much as the land to disassemble, discard the deteriorated bits and reassemble with new and sturdy materials, while adding safe and modern electrical and plumbing systems. No wonder this kind of preservation is restricted to the realm of the wealthy and the visiting tourists.
But there’s another serious issue in the Bukchon neighborhood. The article states that “the back streets are reserved for foot traffic.” Yeah, right. Even the paper’s photo illustrating this point shows a parked car. A fire hazard is caused by these illegally parked cars. It’s amazing how gullible Korean journalists can be.

by Tom Coyner
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