Seoul Campus

4. Seoul Experience on Slum Upgrading

Date 2017-09-25 Writer ssunha
  • Urban Planning
  • 2017-09-25
 <Slum Upgrading Module 4>

So let’s look at what’s happened during the slum upgrading in the 1960’s in the early phase of urbanization. This is the overview of slum housing in Seoul. There are over twenty thousand shanty houses and over ten thousand tent houses. There are even people living in caves and beggar’s places.

So in terms of the physical and legal issues, there are around forty thousand illegal houses in the 1960’s and only 3% of houses had  baths, 18% of the houses had kitchens and only 29% of houses had electricity. So the number of slum housing was approximately 40,000 in 1960.
and it increased exponentially until 1966 when the number rose to one hundred forty thousand.

More than half of the houses in Seoul were slum housing. In the 1960’s, the major viewpoint was to clean up the slums because the government regarded slums illegal and an illness that needed to be fixed. Clearance and relocation from the hazardous areas were the two major approaches.
So under a strict demolition policy, the areas were strictly prohibited and the slums were relocated to public land outside of urban centers. People were given plots around 33-66 km2 but they had to build their own houses with some aid of building materials. These were the typical slum upgrading approach back in the day.

So the government gave them land and people built their houses on the given land. And additionally, people had to build some infrastructures, which meant people had to contribute money or labor and participate in building of the infrastructure. But as the streets were very small at 1 or 2 meters wide due to lack of urban planning, it was inadequate for emergency access or evacuation and the sites became new slums. Following the relocation, there was a big shift in paradigm to in situ resettlement with which we tried to upgrade the area and accommodate the people in the same area.
It was mainly because the outskirt public lands ran short. so the government could not give out more land to slum dwellers. So the government attempted to rehabilitate the slum by building ‘Citizen Apartments’, which were public low income apartments on site that facilitated self-help development.
This is one popular example of a Citizen Apartment built during that time. This Citizen Apartment was built on the same site where a slum area had been demolished. The Ministry of Construction changed the housing policy from middle class single homes and apartments to the redevelopment of slums.
Previously, the government housing policy was to provide middle class housing but this time government took action to target low income housing units. The new policy corrected the practice of making the government-built apartments available only for the middle class and helped to solve the slum housing problem.
The size of apartments then were usually 16-26 m2, which were small in size but it was relatively affordable to the low income population. So the small apartments in large quantities were built for the low income population. The policy has achieved housing expansion in terms of quantity.
This Citizen Apartment approach provided lots of housing units over a short time period. The scheme is as follows. There was 40% government subsidy and 40% local government subsidy and the remaining 20% of the expense was covered by the apartment owners. But the local government experienced serious difficulties in finding the financial resources. Even 40% was a very big number for the local government and the 20% expense was also a big burden for low income people.

So this kind of financial burden lead the apartment construction to be low in quality with poor infrastructure including road, electricity, plumbing and the sewer system. So the end of Citizen Apartment came when one of the five story Citizen Apartment collapsed.
It was a tragedy which took place in 1970 with a total of  34 deaths. Because of this event, Citizen Apartments construction, other in situ resettlement and slum upgrading came to a halt.

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