Seoul, like most large cities, is in a constant state of construction and demolition. Here’s a look inside one of Korea’s ghost towns, an entire neighbourhood marked for destruction.
The Miracle on the Han River is a term used to describe the rapid economic development of Seoul, Korea’s capital and one of the largest metropolises in the world. The furious pace of Seoul’s growth is seemingly endless, as entire districts are condemned, demolished, and rebuilt as towering mega-apartment cities. These apartment cities are clusters of buildings housing thousands, which is rather necessary when you have a nation built on mountainous terrain with little free land left.
There’s a bittersweetness to this process. As the standards of living improve, slumlike housing is cleared away for bigger and better places for families to live. Yet at the same time, a lot of the city’s history is paved over in the process. Hanok style housing, Korea’s ancient style of home building with gorgeous woodwork and arched tiling is becoming increasingly rare, replaced instead by steel, glass and concrete high rises.
When I heard about an area of the city that was once such community condemned to being entirely levelled, I had to see it. I grabbed the camera, jumped on the scooter, and began a wander that left me speechless. An area the size of a small town, utterly abandoned, marked to be destroyed. Residents left seemingly quickly–much of their possessions were left where they were in piles of trash on the streets. Children’s pictures hanging on the wall. Appliances strewn about. In one home I ventured into, I found that the keys to the house were still in the drawer by the door.
Here are pictures from the exploration, images that might be the last ones ever produced of these structures or their contents before they are reduced to a dusty pile.
All photos by Michael Johnstone.