A tale of Two Cities: Seoul in 2012

One striking aspect of Seoul these days is the contrast between the traditional world of family neighborhoods of a small scale including many brick houses of one or two stories and family businesses such as plumbers, carpenters and small stores on the one hand and a rapidly growing city of large-scale shopping malls, office buildings and apartments.

Lumber merchant in front of new office building.



The traditional street in Sindang-dong with the larger new developments around the new Dongdaemun History Park behind it.




The two worlds have very little to do with each other and form essentially two sides of Seoul. To some degree, the combination of the two is part of Seoul’s attraction. But at the same time, one cannot help but wonder what exactly powers the sudden rise of the large-scale buildings.




The traditional street front with a small family store facing the sidewalk, a villa-style home from the 1980s behind it and a large brand-new office building in the background.

What is oddest is how little effort is made to fix up and maintain older buildings. It almost seems as if any building not built in the last ten years is inherently just “old” and not worth maintaining. Personally, I think our neighborhood, pictured here, could be transformed with a few well-placed plantings, paint and tuck pointing.


One response to “A tale of Two Cities: Seoul in 2012

  1. Kathryn Weathersby October 21, 2012 at 1:33 am

    Emmanuel, I’ve been told that according to law, the value of buildings of four stories or less goes to zero in 20 years. That’s why people don’t maintain the smaller buildings — there would be no return on their investment. So the root to solving this problem is changing this law.

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