It was not so long ago. I only just managed to catch the bus. I actually had to stop a bus that was headed for Ogin-dong. The neighborhood was undergoing redevelopment. The old alleyways and hanoks might have disappeared. I was worried that the area would be covered with dull apartment buildings soaring skywards here and there. Every time I pass by Jongno 2(i)-ga, I am heartbroken to see that Pimatgol has disappeared. If Korea’s culture vanishes, will Seoul be any different from Singapore, Beijing or Tokyo?
Ogin-dong has a long history: it has appeared in Gyeomjae Jeongseon’s artwork several times. If managed well, the area would not only be the pride of the residents of Ogin-dong, but also of Seoul’s. Although the priority should be providing comfortable living environment for the residents, leaving the region as truly beautiful area could actually increase the property value, which is what the residents want. Experts claim that thanks to the hanoks, the overall floor area ratio of the neighborhood won’t decrease. Also, owing to the low-rise buildings, the view of Inwangsan(Mt.) won’t be obscured. In addition, Seoul Metropolitan Government will provide public support via the Conflict Resolution Department of the Housing Redevelopment Support Center and will negotiate any conflicts with the residents and with Baeksa Village.
I visited the village in December. I went to discuss issues related to the redevelopment of the village. I helped elderly people seal up the gaps in their doors with paper weather strips, and in turn was treated to cups of sweet, warm coffee.
I recall faint memories of the past. There are walls covered with old doodles that say ‘xxxx is stupid’, banners welcoming an engineering PhD student, telephone poll wires tangled up between the low ceilings and the high winter skies, and food hung out to dry in the winter sun and wind. The once-bustling street has now faded. I remember the people and lives of the past.
We protected the village. We guarded the lives of the people there. And we will transform Baeksa into a better place to live. I want to share this joy with many people. I also want to gain wisdom and support.
The housing culture of the 1960s and ’70s and the natural environment of Baeksa Village will be preserved. No one from the village will be evicted.
We will carry out a ‘hybrid’ redevelopment plan that will be cost-efficient and provide apartments for 1,720 families.
The papers are calling it a ‘Park Won Soon-style redevelopment plan,’ but there’s no need to add my name to it. It is merely a reasonable policy based on the opinions of many that considers the future of the village and Seoul.
A developer will design a creative architecture for Baeksa Village. There will be beautiful houses across the wide, gentle valleys. A village museum and cultural exhibition space will open, and the residents of Baeksa Village will be able to preserve their happiness. I still remember the Baeksa Village I visited last winter. I wish the villagers every happiness. We’re going to do a great job.