Seoul. The city without soul. In the mad rush to develop on the surface and bring itself rapidly from post-war devastation into perceived modernity, Seoul had to forgo a lot of things. Only recently, for example, has there been a focus on clean and welcoming public spaces or leisure activities. The monumental effort to construct the city is, in a sense, done and the focus is now on making it livable. However, as this gentrification proceeds, the main streets of Seoul are, while cleaner and easier to navigate, extremely sterile. Behind these facades, however, one can still find the grit of life. The block directly above Jongno-3-ga Station is one such are, and one of my favourites in the entire city.
Jongno-3-ga was the area where the anti-colonial revolution was hatched and the stomping ground for the working class during Seoul’s development efforts. Before Gangnam and before Yeouido, this was the business and financial hub of the city. Despite the Lee Myungbak presidency’s attempts to gentrify the area, much of the “original” development still remains. The bars, cheap eats, street vendors, and, of course, the people that frequented them, still fill the area. For a taste of Seoul, there’s no place quite like it.
These images were made on an hour-long walk around the block one afternoon in October 2019.
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