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[Column] Testing S. Korea’s democracy with urban redevelopment

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我在這篇短評裡面介紹了一點關於韓國現今的住屋政策、租屋條件與反迫遷運動碰撞下的背景。

附上一些遍地皆是的韓國縉紳化APT(公寓)景象..

原文載於Hankyoreh 2009.09.01

Seven months have passed since the Yongsan tragedy. It has widely been considered as a critical chapter that stands testament to South Korea’s acute housing problem. In the meantime, the Lee Administration has announced a package of housing policies to help the low-income families; however, without offering a comprehensive resettlement plan, whether for residents affected by development and the New Town projects or Greenbelt projects and this is hiking up anxiety and insecurity among ‘possible evictees’ elsewhere.

The Yongsan people’s struggles are not merely a popular struggle for tenants’ housing right or a claim for the justice of evictees. It has much to do with the increase in the polarization in housing and the leaking of democracy in South Korea under neoliberal ism. In order to make this claim, let us briefly examine the context of the dynamic of housing policy that has taken place.

South Korea’s current housing policy

The current housing situation in South Korea requires a close examination. While Seoul has been listed as experiencing the third highest rate of real house price increases among Asian cities since 1999, it is also considered more affordable now than compared to the early 1990s, says the latest IMF report. However, this optimistic claim fails to consider inequality in household income and how South Korea’s rental market functions, which makes up 44 percent of the housing stock nationwide. When we consider the prevalence of the cheonse system, making up 68 percent of the rental market, that requires a deposit or ‘key money’ of 60 percent to 75 percent of the price of the house or the wueolsesystem that requires 10 times to 20 times the monthly rent as a rental deposit, both signify a high threshold that is only possible for those who possess high financial sufficiency to meet. For many, the only option left is to rent a goshiwon (a room around three square metres or 1.5 pyeong that may involve access to a shared bathroom and kitchen on the same fall or somewhere in the building )or a hasuk (boarding-style house typically located near universities) and neither of these are suitable for most families or households with multiple members.

In the past two decades, the critical issue affecting housing conditions in South Korea is the commoditization of housing rights. It has evolved with two main challenges. First, the task of the government should be to solve the housing shortage for low-income households while placing restrictions on the inflation of housing prices. Second, the government has had to minimize the bursting of temporary real estate bubbles and stagnation in the construction industry. However, while curbing soaring property prices and bolstering the construction industry, the government has aggravated tensions around its housing policy. Since the inauguration of the Lee administration, measures have been introduced to raise capital gains tax from redevelopment projects and providing public rental housing to curb speculation. In addition, as the launching of the New Town projects in 2007 illustrates, it has attempted to revitalize slumps in the real estate market by providing various incentives in redevelopment projects and provisions. Now, the administration‘s objectives seem to have found a temporal convergence in its plans to release more greenbelt land for raising the housing supply.

梨花女大站另一隅 小屋沿坡爬

梨花女大站另一隅 小屋沿坡爬

Whose New Town dream is it?

Notwithstanding the endeavors of the government’s new housing policy, there has not been any direct reaction to address the housing rights issue of the dispossessed within the ongoing New Town Project or the Greenbelt Project. Ironies about in the beautiful New Town dream in terms of affecting the government‘s resettlement plan, the amount of both newly designated parcels and unsold parcels. While an intention has been expressed towards meeting people’s housing needs, the New Town projects have also caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents without proper implementation of a resettlement plan. Moreover, the supply-demand discrepancies are being mended by allowing private builders to construct apartments on formerly restricted greenbelt land. As the government aims to implement policy to address the problem it has caused and produce an estimated 320,000 units of housing by 2012, an alarm over last year’s over-supply of gentrified apartments has yet to melt into air. To top it off, the expense for all of this is being absorbed by tax payers.

天安市朋友家附近的公寓簇群(距首爾市中心車程一小時多)

天安市朋友家附近的公寓簇群(距首爾市中心車程一小時多)

To go beyond supply-demand housing policy

How are we to imagine the future landscape of the Seoul Metropolitan Area under such gigantic amounts of construction? And, when the `damaged‘ greenbelt area is fill in by more and more apartments, what will this then lead to? When one juxtaposes the New Town Project with the Greenbelt Project as a first step towards implementing the Land Ministry’s plan announced last year of setting aside 1.5 million units for low-income households or Bogeumjari apartments by 2018, it becomes apparent that housing policy will continue to be utilized as an urban growth machine, but not for the people the city once housed. Although the government has released rescue-packages to lower the housing prices for low-income families there are still large numbers of victims that have been and will continue to be affected by the synchronized ‘displacement projects.’ The government should upgrade its housing policy orientation from a simple supply-demand calculation based on a top-down perspective to the seeding of grounded democracy in the current housing policy. Moreover, evictees’ housing rights need to be restored and recognized through a collective place-making process, and the resettlement plan for people to be able to actually live in the possible redevelopment/ reconstruction areas needs to be realized.

Lastly, is apartment development in the now declassified green zones the only solution for South Korea? The imagination of ‘redevelopment’ requires further effort and deliberation, and housing needs to be revisioned as a social project that requires a solution to house diverse types of housing needs and to stop further polarization.

富川市的新市鎮開發街景

富川市新市鎮開發後製造了一塊突兀的縉紳化街區(p.s.這系列建築主題叫The State咧)

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Written by chy7211

09/03/2009 at 5:12 下午