Bulldozing our history

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Bulldozing our history

All that is left of the neighborhood of Pimatgol, the series of winding alleyways with its roots in the Joseon Dynasty, is a red gate with a spiked top behind the Kyobo Building next to Gwanghwamun Plaza.

Modern cutting-edge, high-rise buildings now stand in an area that used to overflow with the joys and sorrows of the common people, and additional developments are under way.

The bystreet people used to avoid the horses high officials rode down the main road Jongno during the Joseon Dynasty has disappeared in the blink of an eye because of a “city environment maintenance project.” This is the pinnacle of the “bulldozer style” of redevelopment that ignores cultural value.

The reason tens of millions of tourists from around the world visit Paris, France, each year and find themselves in awe of the beauty of the city is because of the hundreds of years of history it contains.

Small, old, unintimidating buildings, cozy alleys, and the historical traces of the lives of the city’s people create a spell that attracts curious onlookers.

Seoul is a city where ancient history and culture breathe, just like Paris. After all, it has been a capital for over 600 years. Each neighborhood and street has its own origin and story.

However, Seoul is turning into a cold, gray city with no color or scent, just the same matchbox-style buildings, under the justification of “city development” and “modernization.”

In this respect, the “small unit customized redevelopment” plan Seoul city announced on Monday is good news.

We completely support the plan’s intention to select and rebuild the minimum number of areas possible, as an alternative to the total redevelopment method in order to revive the history and culture of the city.

As the Yongsan tragedy showed us, the total redevelopment method had significant side effects such as the provocation of serious social conflicts and the removal of people’s homes.

If old and shabby buildings are evaluated for possible preservation and remodeled or partially renovated to raise their value, history can be preserved and help can be offered to local residents. Dongparang village in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, is a good example of turning a shabby, poor hillside village into a tourist attraction by painting murals.

The buildings, roads and alleys of a city are just as much a part of our historical and cultural assets. Yet we have been busy erasing our history and focusing on random development until now. We look forward to city redevelopment that considers the lives of the people spreading not only in Seoul but nationwide.
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