Restoration, not redevelopmentThe author is a construction and real estate team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Seoul Metropolitan Government raised the issue. For its “Seun Again” project to restore Seun Arcade in 2015, it began to use the term “restoration” for the redevelopment of the Euljiro area. On Jan. 11, a four-year plan was announced and Seun Arcade was chosen as one of the three restoration projects. The purpose is to restore the old structures built during the industrialization era, but the hardware stores are being pulled down.
Young artists — who moved to Euljiro with hopes of collaborating with local artisans — lost what they counted on. On Jan. 15, Seoul city officials were sent to Seun Arcade to persuade confused local. They explained that the Euljiro redevelopment project was set up by former mayor Oh Se-hoon and that it was going ahead. It seems the original plan of a large-scale redevelopment was now divided into smaller blocks.
The dictionary definition of restoration is to process old or broken goods for reuse. To Seoul, however, restoration seems to be “dividing and redeveloping.” Old buildings are pulled down in sections and multi-use buildings that average 20 stories are erected.
Lee Jeong-seong, an artisan who worked as an engineer for the late video art pioneer Nam-june Paik, vented, “Just call it redevelopment. Don’t portray it as restoration.”
Euljiro became hot while redevelopment was in progress. Pictures of crooked allies and old stores were posted on social media. The Jung district office created an Eulji Tour course. Chef Park Chan-il’s “Old Stores’ Business Secrets,” which includes wonderful stories of Eulji Myeonok, has a recommendation from Mayor Park Won-soon. “I hope these stores would get older.” But the city simply focuses on PR without thinking about sustainability.
Times have changed and the value of old things is more treasured. A city is a living organism: old things must be renewed and revamped. The manner of developing Euljiro while also preserving its charms should be studied — simply changing the name from redevelopment to restoration is not the answer. I am worried that Euljiro will go the way of Pimatgol, whose old-street charms became a dry and unattractive neighborhood.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 17, Page 29