Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Exploring Gindeung Maeul
Above can be seen a photo of southeast Banghwa-dong, which contains one of my favourite areas in my neighbourhood, Gindeung Maeul. It was apparently first settled in the late 60s as Banghwa began to sprout along Banghwa-dong Gil (the street curving towards bottom left) and Gonghangno, running along the bottom towards Gimpo Airport to the west (the school at bottom left, Songjeong Elementary School, first opened in 1937). These days Gindeung Maeul is separated from the rest of Banghwa-dong by a 10 lane road which was built in the late 1990s and will soon be connected to the Olympic expressway by a tunnel and extended to Bucheon. It's also bordered to the east by Magok-dong, the last large piece of undeveloped farmland in Seoul, where construction for subway line took place, and the Incheon Airport Railway is being built.
Gindeung Maeul has always been an interesting place to bike or walk around, due to the maze of streets and the variation in the buildings.
As you can see in these photos taken in 2006, most of the streets are not paved, but 'cobbled'...
...and some are too small to drive through.
As you can see above, the dwellings run the gamut from small yangoks (western style single family houses) to literal shacks patched together with whatever materials could be found to multi-storey villa-style apartments.
Unfortunately, I have to describe the neighbourhood in the past tense. Years ago, it was slated to be part of the Banghwa New Town redevelopment laid out when Lee Myung-bak was Seoul Mayor. Gindeung Maeul can be seen jutting out on the right:
Here's what it looks like from above in a photo taken in early 2006, with the area scheduled for demolition marked off:
Here are the plans for the Gindeung part of the Banghwa New Town, taken from the official website:
I wandered through the area over a period of a few months this past spring and summer photographing the vacant and soon-to-be-vacant houses there. The reason for the mess before the houses are torn down is due to subcontractors coming in and tearing all the metal out of the house. As window frames contain metal, this means the glass is smashed to get at them, making for quite the mess. Sometimes the ondol pipes are ripped from under the concrete floors as well (as are most of the bathroom fixtures).
Along the horizontal center of the picture above you can see a dwelling almost closer to a hanok than a yangok, as well as a cobbled together house. Note the women working in the garden at bottom right; they were obviously not planning to leave soon. Contrast those dwellings with the one standing behind me when I took the photo above:
I really like that building, for some reason. Below, another aged, falling-apart dwelling is in front of a villa.
Here's what the walls looked like inside:
In a similar house, the entrances to some of the rooms were rather makeshift:
Note that the electrical outlets and switches have been wired in after the structure was built:
The crumbling building at center left above can be seen here:
Many of the houses had fascinating nooks and crannies:
Many houses had calendars left hanging, giving an indication of when the owners left:
The same house's courtyard from several different angles:
Note the barricade in the photo above, and how it has been pushed down in the photo below:
This house had a window opening onto a field (which is how we snuck in the first time).
Many places had windows with shelves set into them in this same style:
As dead as it looked, there was still some life to be found...
...no matter how hard people tried to snuff it out.
There were lots of cats around.
Not everyone was trying to wipe out the plant life, as you can see a garden being planted in the courtyard above. Many houses still had gardens producing vegetables or plants growing on roofs despite the disappearance of the tenants.
Here's an example of a floor ripped up, as well as a few other kitchen shots:
Someone didn't want their betamax collection, I guess. The odd thing is that the larger tapes are not VHS - they're much larger. I have no idea what kind they are!
Here's a view of a corner store taken in December 2006,
and October 2008.
I imagine the last two shots help give you an idea of the neighbourhood's fate, but I'll save that for another day.