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From Gangnam Style To Sungmisan Style: Creating “Village” Communities In South Korea

Author: So Jung Rim
Published Date: 24 July 2013

By So Jung Rim

Seoul, Flickr, 2011

The first thing a visitor notices when arriving in Seoul is the endless rows of apartment buildings that overwhelm the cityscape. Unlike the tower block estates in deprived neighbourhoods in the UK, high-rise apartment buildings are symbol of modernity and economic wealth in South Korea. The French geographer, Valerie Gelezeau, author of Apartment Republic, regards Korean apartment buildings as factories producing the middle class in Korea¹: a burgeoning class created through rapid economic growth as well as the cultural and social processes that accompanied wealth. It is not unusual for Korean families to move from apartment to apartment as a way to invest in property and accumulate wealth. The height of these tall buildings- as well as their names (ranging from “Lotte Castle” to “Trump Tower” and “High Palace”)- reflect the aspiration of the middle class in Korea – to be richer, more powerful and more modern.

There is growing movement in Korea that challenges this cultural and economic system that encourages competition, materialism and disconnection. The recent South Korean viral sensation “Gangnam Style” portrayed the hyper-materialistic culture in Korea and triggered a broader conversation about growing social inequalities in Seoul². People are realising that the current system of “more is better” is unsustainable and cannot solve the pressing social needs that Korean cities are facing.

To read the full article, please follow the link to Urban Times, where this item was originally published.