Sinchon’s ascent creates some casualtiesConstruction of a new Migliore shopping center and Megabox multiplex in Sinchon finished in August and the doors for the two commercial complexes opened in September. With these developments, the Sinchon area, which used to be a district that represented the “university culture” of Korea with its bookstores, live bars featuring folk music and politically-charged student rallies, is taking a step towards becoming a more commercial area catering to a new generation of young, upwardly mobile professionals.
At present, plans are underway to create a central plaza, occupying 6,000 square meters (20,000 square feet) around the new theater and shopping center. Additionally, a modern-style multi-purpose building complex has also been added to this area.
“At Sinchon Station, a daily average of 5,500 people use the Gyeongeni line trains (which go through Seoul Station, Susaek, Ilsan and Munsan). The increase in users is due to the arrival of these new complexes, which serve several purposes such as shopping, entertainment, and food," said Cho Gae-ok, the vice station manager at Sinchon Station.
The streets in front of Ewha Womans University are also changing. Around 40 telephone poles have been removed to make sidewalks wider. The small clothing stores and the food hawkers are being replaced by building complexes. There will even be a park added. Kim Ji-yeon, a student at Ewha Womans University said, “Although the charming little shops are all gone now, the street does look more polished, modern, and in tune with the new university culture.”
Unlike Ms. Kim's response, there are those who regret that these streets are changing, becoming more like the main streets in the Gangnam and Myeongdong districts, without any character of their own. “The Sinchon train station used to be a place where I would go to get away from the city on a limited budget and get some fresh air, but I guess it will only be a memory now,” said Jung Han-sung, 28, who said he used to go on retreats during his university years by getting on the train at Sinchon Station.
The station, which was finished in 1920, was the oldest train station in Seoul. It was frequented by university students as a point of departure for excursions away from Seoul, but that line has been disconnected for two years.
The bookstores have been disappearing as well. These include Today's Book, which served as a mecca for humanities and social science students, along with others such as Eagle Tea Room and Greenhouse. All these have closed over the last 10 years. Within the last two to three years, this type of bookstore has completely vanished from the map. Cho Sung-sik, who was the owner of Today's Book, said, “At its peak, the store had the highest profit rate out of all the humanities and social science specialty bookstores in Korea. However, we couldn't cope with rising rents.”
“The change in the Sinchon area is an aspect of a change in youth culture. Since the early 1990s, as many rock cafes opened around this area, the district has been developed as a major commercial area,” said Kim Chan-ho, a cultural anthropology professor at Hanyang University.
by Kwon Ho