The Granite Tower
One Step Further from a Mere Development
Moon Sun  |
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승인 2019.05.12  00:46:40
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 Regeneration is totally different from simple redevelopment. While redevelopment focuses on correcting the flaws of a certain subject, regeneration aims to make something more vivid and alive. It aims for the entire reincarnation of the subject, seeking for a flawless self. Cities, though their size may look too extensive to regenerate, are no exception to such advances.

Since his election, President Moon Jaein has been supporting the “Urban Regeneration New Deal Project,” and promised to support the project with a national budget of five trillion won. The government has selected 99 cities in Korea where city regeneration should be mandatory. Those cities were categorized into different groups based on their size and population, and the government applied five different regeneration models that could enhance the standard of the cities: “Rejuvenating our Community,” “Housing Support,” “The Neighborhood Model,” “The Downtown Model” and “The Economic Support Model.”
Long before the New Deal project, Korea have been implementing the urban city regeneration projects for decades since the late 20th century. The previous urban redevelopment projects in the 1980s made accomplishments in building apartments and constructing asphalt roads all across the country. Building on these past accomplishments, the urban regeneration plans continuously aimed for the enhancement of the city ’s competitiveness, a better city welfare, a clean and safe environment, the improvement of city cultural systems, and the strengthening of residents’ abilities.
Similar Yet Different
Even though the government introduced the New Deal project as something innovative and ground-breaking, the current project does not seem to be much different from the previous city regeneration plans. The major goals that the New Deal project seeks are housing welfare, recovery of city vitality, job creation, community recovery and social integration. These policies were already pursued in the previous city regeneration policies, making the New Deal project look no different from the previous regeneration projects.
Though the policies above may lead citizens to regard the previous regeneration projects and the New Deal project as similar endeavors, the New Deal project has its significance in that it aims to pass the pollicy that previous regeneration projects failed to accomplish. For decades, the South Korean urban regeneration plans were mainly carried out by government employees, not reflecting local interests. As a countermeasure to such drawbacks, the New Deal project focuses on constant cooperation with citizens, declaring that they will make several changes to help locals.
The government first ensured the creation of new jobs for citizens living in the city. It also promised to distribute diverse multi-functional buildings and shopping districts evenly all across the city, making it easy for locals to search for such districts and convenience centers. Moreover, the government stated that the citizens are to replace its role so that citizens would be allowed to independently search for new business opportunities that could improve the
quality of their own cities.
Protecting the Poor
One of the biggest problems the Moon administration focuses on is gentrification. Gentrification occurs when an undeveloped area suddenly transforms into a more affluent neighborhood. Dramatic population influx occurs, and people with sufficient fortune and money often take possession of the developed apartments. With the limited number of apartments and the unceasing influx of population, people who lack money would not stand a chance to possess land in such redeveloped cities.
In response, the government enacted policies that could help local citizens to preserve their place in the developing cities. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) constantly strengthened the Urban Development Act for years, limiting the areas which land investors could purchase. The government promised to provide the locals in need of money with a certain amount of financial support, so that they could retain their place in the newly developed area. It also established the virtuous cycle in the city, where previous local citizens could form a market economy without the interference of an external economy and ultimately stand on their own.
More to Solve
Despite the government’s countless efforts, the New Deal project still failed to fully eliminate gentrification. Gentrification still occurs in the recently regenerated cities, showing its diverse side effects. For example, in Gwangju, housing became even more expensive than that in Seoul, which is unusual in the nation’s real estate market. In Yeosu, as the government provided more jobs by developing the neighboring harbor, locals who worked in places far from the harbors lost their customers to the new markets made in the ports.
▲ Professor Daniel Oh Department of Architecture. Photographed by Kim Seung-Hye
Professor Daniel Oh (Department of Architecture) identifies the cause of such situations as the lack of constructive dialogue and participation at a citizen level in general. “According to Sherry Arnstein, the author of The Ladder of Citizen Participation, there are six levels of citizen participation,” he stated. “In South Korea, most of the cities are classified as the bottom half with a handful of exceptions. The level of citizen participation and governance are still at very early stages. In order to regenerate depressed neighborhoods in Korea, the residents must get involved and not rely on the local government officials. A healthy and constructive participation from the residents is the only way to bring truly sustainable urban regeneration,” said Professor Oh.
Professor Oh also suggested that young people pay attention to the development in their cities. In the past, cities were developed based on the Top Down method, where only the experts managed to participate. Contrary to the past, the current New Deal project is a perfect chance for young people to freely participate in the regeneration plans. “The success or failure of the New Deal project depends on the voluntary interest and participation of the locals. If these voluntary works are not fully conducted, the New Deal project would be no different from the previous redevelopments,” Professor Oh asserted, emphasizing the importance of consistent cooperation between the people and the government.
The New Deal project showed more advances in making an ideal city than the previous developments and regenerations, compensating for the defects of the previous policies. Still, the major drawbacks of the regeneration project, especially gentrification, remain as a challenge for the government to meet. Current results of the regeneration projects indicate how difficult it is for the government to solve the problems by itself. Therefore, cooperation and discussion with local citizens, especially with young people would be the first and foremost task the government should accomplish.
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