The destruction of Seoul’s various hanok neighborhoods has been a growing issue with people looking to preserve the city’s cultural heritage:
Stroll through the tangle of alleyways in the Ikseon-dong neighborhood of the Jongno District and you’re transported to another world, one where quaint wood-frame homes with ornate roofs line the streets alongside boutiques selling colorful clothing from a bygone era.
Ikseon-dong is one of only a handful of neighborhoods in Seoul where traditional homes, called hanok, still dominate the landscape, harkening back to Korea’s not-so-distant past. The country’s rapid march toward industrialization in the second half of the 20th century often trampled cultural preservation efforts.
With Korea now firmly entrenched in the developed world, however, some city officials are trying to shelter areas like Ikseon-dong from the continuing push toward modernization, setting aside large chunks of money to help hanok owners renovate and upgrade their homes.
It’s a noble goal, as the homes represent a unique cultural asset for the city and provide a window into its history. But these efforts are being met with resistance from a surprising segment of the population: the homeowners themselves. [Joong Ang Ilbo]
I can understand the point of view of the people who live in these hanoks:
Some owners say they’d rather have the government tear down their homes and build modern apartments on the land, provided they get space in the new residences. Hanok, they claim, are relatively uncomfortable in this day and age, as they have poor heating in winter, antiquated bathroom facilities and other drawbacks. These families, many of which have lived in the homes for decades, would rather reside in a modern apartment than a historical house.
“They are part of the Jongno District’s past and tradition, and I understand why people want to keep them, but modern buildings are long overdue in this area,” 64-year-old Kim Young-il, who has lived in a hanok in Ikseon-dong for close to 50 years, said on a recent night while having drinks with his friends. “People who don’t live in hanok do not realize how inconvenient they are. If you had a choice of choosing between a warm and modern apartment unit over an outdated hanok house, what would you do?”
These hanoks Ikseon-dong are not like the more modern hanoks that can be found in Bucheon for example. These residents simply don’t want to live in ghetto conditions simply because people want to preserve their houses as museum pieces. The simple answer is for those promoting the preservation of the hanoks to provide funding for the residents to renovate their homes. If these residents are provided with equivalent living conditions that they would have in an apartment I’m sure they would agree to continue to live in their homes.
However, the developers who stand to make a lot of money from this development will probably have the final say on this.