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Mayor's Hope Journal

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  • A Story of Hope for the Yeongdeungpo Shantytown
    [Mayor Park Won Soon’s Administrative Journal 52]

  • SMG 1488

    Last week the mercury dipped and it snowed heavily. Civil workers of the city government were busy shoveling snow off the roads and sprinkling calcium chloride on the streets. Taking this opportunity, I would like to ask the citizens to use public transport much more on snowy days and to clear the snow in front of their houses as early as possible for our common comfort.

    Following the news about the temp workers’ transition to permanent positions announced on Wednesday, I would like to share another piece of good news with you. It concerns the remodeling of the flophouses in the Yeongdeungpo shantytown.

    I wonder if you have seen a flophouse in Seoul. Shortly after I took my oath of office, I paid a visit to the shantytown near Yeongdeungpo Station and went into some of the flophouses there. I thought. “This is not the type of housing that matches the national constitution, which says that all Koreans have dignity and value as human beings and the right to pursue happiness. No matter how long it takes, such shabby housing conditions in the nation’s capital city must be improved by all means.” Now, we are about to see the completion of the 1st phase of the Yeongdeungpo Shantytown Remodeling Project. On December 20th, the work on thirty-six households will be completed with the installation of proper heating and insulation, which will enable the residents to get through the winter much more easily.

    The city government will have completed the renovation of another fifty-nine flophouses by the end of January 2013, and will continue the remodeling work on another 100 houses over the next two years, so that by the end of 2014 a total of 295 flophouses will have been improved. The Yeongdeungpo Shantytown Project is just the beginning. The city administration will continue to improve the worst housing conditions in a number of shantytowns and gosiwons (the cheapest one-room facilities) throughout the city. All of this is part of the housing project for the disadvantaged.

    However, the city government is approaching the housing project for the underprivileged in a more comprehensive way. For instance, building rental housing is a very good idea, but its location matters. Moving the poor into any rental housing complex does not work. They will come back to where they were sooner rather than later because of their livelihood. Therefore, the connection between housing and livelihood is crucial for the disadvantaged in particular.

    To accommodate the residents of the Yeongdeungpo shantytown while the remodeling work was under way, temporary shelters were provided in three layers of shipping containers under an overpass beside the shantytown. Electric floor heating panels were installed on the floors of the containers, and single windows were replaced by double-pane windows. A kitchen, a toilet, and a shower facility were installed in each one. A sort of study was also built in each container with a television set and some basic exercise equipment in it. The space could use some humanities books, I thought.

    The city government is considering using the temporary shelters for some time to come as long as their safety is confirmed. Though located beneath an overpass, they are not nearly as noisy as one might think once inside them. Drafts are effectively blocked out. Colors of the facilities are bright and even pretty. More than anything else, the residents want these facilities, which were in fact designed by architects for the city’s public structures, to be put to good use. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for donating their talent. They contribute not just to the architecture but to the spirit of sharing in the town.

    By the way, the construction work for the shelters was carried out by the residents themselves, meaning they have contributed to job growth in the city.

    Last winter, the citizens of Seoul made a miracle happen. No one froze to death. I earnestly hope that the miracle continues into this winter. Life is hectic and hard. Yet, I want you to look around just one more time. All of us at the city government will do our utmost to find those most in need and extend a helping hand to them. Thank you.