Spring has come, triumphing the piercing cold that seemed like it would never end. This winter has been colder than usual. Some people could not help but to rely on using coal briquettes for fuel rather than using a heater. The Argus visited 104 Village, a town on the verge of Seoul where the residents are living in the hopes of a spring rejuvenation.
You Seo-yeon(You): Phew, the hill is too steep. Where on Earth are we?
Moon Chae-un(Moon): We are here in 104 Village, Junggye-dong, Nowon District, that is more commonly known as the last shantytown in Seoul. The village like this is called a “Moon Village,” or “Daldongnae” in Korean, which signifies its high elevation and closer proximity to the moon. Tucked away in secluded parts of Seoul, moon villages first came into sight due to the aftermath of the Korean War. In the 1960’s, when urban development was in full sway, villages like 104 Village started to be replaced for the sake of industrialization. Nowadays, only a few shantytowns are left in Seoul, and 104 Village is the last village that is awaiting its turn to be revitalized.
You: I had no idea this kind of village has existed in Seoul. What took this town so long to get redeveloped?
Moon: It is because the stakes were so high for those related with the reconstruction of this town. It was 2009 when Seoul city designated 104 Village as an urban renewal district, but due to a distinct lack of planning and conflict with residents, it took nine years to actually take action. According to the Nowon District Office, on Jan. 15, the Seoul Housing & Communities Corporation will be in charge of reconstruction of this town in April to May this year.
You: What are all these Korean National flags in the uninhabited houses for?
Moon: The government intended to mark the vacant houses with the flags so that public officials and all the persons concerned can visit each and every one of the houses. That is why you can find national flags here more than anywhere else.
You: I would have felt more devastated if it had not been for the colorful murals on the walls. What an isolated town!
Moon: I know, right? But this town is a byproduct of Korea’s agonizing history ? from the Korean War to industrialization up until the mid-70’s. Rejuvenating this entire slum village lining up to the top of the mountain sounds cool, but that does not mean it is an end to poverty for good. This place can transform into a remarkable town that draws so many people wanting to live here. Nevertheless, government and city officials should remember it presents evidence of someone’s past desperate and harsh conditions.
By Moon Chae-un
Associate Editor of Campus Section