Chinese version of my paper on Displacement and Urban Redevelopment in Seoul

Back in 2008, I had a paper published in the journal, Environment and Urbanization. It discusses the effectiveness of public rental housing provision as compensation measures for tenants in substandard neighbourhoods which become subject to wholesale demolition and redevelopment. I argue in the paper that while the provision of public rental housing provision is a step forward for addressing housing problems of the urban poor, it cannot be all-encompassing solution, and that compensation needs to take into account the diverse socio-economic circumstances (including tenure preferences) of the urban poor.

Not too long after its publication, I had a chance to come across with a colleague who at the time was based in China, working on a number of urbanisation-related research projects. He thought the paper was useful for Chinese audience too and kindly arranged its translation into Chinese to be subsequently posted on a Chinese web site on urban governance. I post the Chinese version of the paper in this post. I express sincere thanks to the colleague who at the time was based in China. (My understanding was that he preferred to remain anonymous at the time, and I will contact him if he’s happy to be named here)

On a separate note, I notice that the Chinese web site has gone through some changes during the last few years. I still find the Chinese version of my paper on the web site (click here to view), but it does not mention my name as the author of the original paper. As there is no contact detail on the web site, I am not sure how to go about asking for corrections. Any tips and help in this matter would be much appreciated. Continue reading

Book Review [In Korean]: Shanghai Gone by Qin Shao

This is the fifth monthly contribution to the Korean daily newspaper, The KyungHyang Shinmun. I have chosen by Qin Shao, Professor of History at The College of New Jersey. There is an excerpt of the book in English, which can be viewed on the Asia Society web site on this link.

The book discusses the life and struggle of Shanghai’s displacees whose life courses have abruptly changed by the city-wide redevelopment projects. Facing the almighty power of the state, developers, media and so on, displacees are transformed from ordinary residents to an occupational petitioners, a barrack-room lawyer or a community leader. The rights discourse spelled out by these people also provides a fascinating insight for our understanding on how the interaction between reform measures (economic, political and legal) and people’s response to these have reshaped their rights awareness and views on social justice.

The contents of this book resonate with my own research on residents’ displacement and redevelopment in Seoul (Nangok neighbourhood, 난곡) in South Korea (see my papers from Geoforum and Environment and Urbanization) as well as in Beijing and Guangzhou in China (in particular, my papers from Antipode and Urban Studies).

2013년 6월 22? 지면 게재 예정 [해외 책] 서? 송고 ?고:

(게재? ?고 바로보기)

?하?, 사?지다 (Shanghai Gone: Domicide and Defiance in a Chinese Megacity), 친 샤오

ShanghaiGone-QinShao?하? 정부 통계를 근거로 유추해보면 2003년부터 2010년까지 48 가구대략 150만명 가까운 시민? 철거?주 대??었? 것으로 파악?다. 2003 기준 ?하? ? 가구수가 486만?었으니, 8 ?안     집꼴로 ?종 개발사업으로 ?해 철거?주? 셈?다?러한 통계?는 ?민공??고? 불리우는 ?주노??가 제외?니 실제 철거?주? ?시민 규모는 훨씬 ? ? 것?다중국? 20세기초 ?시화 과정? 연구하? ?양사학?  샤오가 2013 발표한 저작 <?하?사?지다> 최근 10년? ?어난 ?하?? ?시개발로 ?해 집과 ??? 파괴? 보통 사람들? 고난과 투? 역사를 담고 있다.

중국 사회주? 정부하?서 재개발? 애초 주거환경개선??는 복지? 성격? 강하였다. ?러한 성격? 근본?으로 변한 것? 1990년대 집중? 주? ?품화, 토지 ?품화 정책? 기?한다. 국가소유? 토지? 사용권? 시장 거래 대?? ?고, 그 ?매 수?? 지방정부 예산외 재?으로 편입?면서 지방정부가 토지개발? ? ?해관계를 갖는다. 여기? 급?히 팽창한 주?시장? 몰린 투?사, 건설사 등과 공통? ?해관계를 토대로 협력? 관계를 맺? 것?다. ?로? ?시재개발? ? ?? 복지?기보다는 ?윤추구를 위한 수?사업? ? 것?다.  Continue reading

Tokyo, the Roppongi Hills, and Vertical Urbanism

My last trip to Tokyo was in late December 2010, about three months before the earthquake and the leakage of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plants. I haven’t been able to return since then, and if I do, it would be interesting to compare the atmosphere of the city with what I felt during my last trip, though it is probable that I may not notice any major difference. Even if there are changes, I would expect such things in Japan would tend to be more subtle, not distinctive enough for occasional visitors like myself to notice.

In any case, at that time, I spent about four nights in Tokyo, meeting up with friends that I had missed for long. I also aimed to spend the day time to explore the city as much as possible, taking pictures of various places. Whenever I visit a new city, one of the first things that I do is to look for a tall building, if not the tallest, which may have an observation area that presents a bird’s eye view of the whole city. In Tokyo, my recommendations would go to two places. One of them is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building complex, which has twin towers that offer a free access to top-floor lounge areas.

Mori Tower

The other place, which I pay particular attention to in this posting, is the Roppongi Hills. It accommodates Mori Tower (see figure on the left), which provides an observation deck known as Tokyo City View on the 52nd floor. Mori Tower also has an outdoor roof deck on the 54th floor, which is sometimes closed at the time of severe weather conditions. According to various sources, the Roppongi district used to be home to many entertainment venues including night clubs for many years before it experienced a downturn at the time of Japan’s bubble burst in the early 1990s. After having been a rugged, rough place for years, the district has gone through a marked transformation (Roman Cybriwsky’s Roppongi Crossing seems like a good guide to the understanding of these changes). Major mix-use developments such as the Roppongi Hills (where Mori Tower occupies the centre stage) and the Tokyo Midtown have come to provide upscale residential flats and commercial and recreational facilities, catering for the needs of the affluent and tourists.

In particular, the Roppongi Hills development was spearheaded by Minoru Mori, a real estate tycoon who was ranked the 683rd richest person in the Forbe’s The World’s Billionnaires list (as of March 2012). Unfortunately, Minoru Mori passed away at the age of 77 in March 2012. His younger brother Akira Mori is another real estate tycoon, ranked 6th richest person in Japan and the 314th in the world according to the Forbes. Both brothers inherited the wealth from their father, Taikichiro Mori, who happened to be the world’s richest at the beginning of the 1990s.

The Roppongi Hills development happened to be one of the largest private-led urban redevelopment projects. The building complex stood on a 11-hectare site, which used to be owned by about 500 individual landowners. The compiled images from Google Earth attached below show the landscape of the site before and after the project (the while line indicates an approximate boundary of the site). The redevelopment plan started with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s designation of the site as ‘redevelopment inducement area’ in November 1986, and it took more than 14 years before the Ownership Transfer Plan was approved, signalling the conclusion of ownership-related negotiations (or disputes?) with individual landowners. The majority of these owners were said to have received a piece of properties, either office or a flat in the complex, in return for their land ownership rights. As the dates above show, it was under the reign of Taikichiro Mori when the redevelopment plan was initiated. It seemed that Taikichiro Mori was very tactful (=controversial?) with his acquisition of the site. Buying small parcels discreetly and moving in his own employees to become active community members was the strategy he used (see his obituary in The New York Times). Upon the death of Taikichiro Mori in January 1993, the redevelopment project continued under the leadership of Minoru Mori. The construction work commenced in April 2000, and it required full three years to complete the construction, resulting in a mix-use building complex with a total floor space of about 760000 square metres (see the company site for more details on the development history)


Minoru Mori was well-known for his promotion of ‘vertical garden cities’, advocating the vertical assemblage of various urban functions instead of horizontal expansion, resonating Le Corbusier’s The Radiant City. Googling also reveals another British-born architect Chris Abel as having preached the same expression, but it is not clear if the two interacted with each other, sharing the views. In any case, the web site of Mori Building Co., Ltd has a concise explanation (pasted below) of what they consider as the guiding principle of constructing a ‘vertical garden city’:

“By assembling land that has been subdivided into small parcels into a large block and then consolidating building needs in high-rise structures while exploiting man-made foundations and underground space, this approach can free a vast amount of open space at the ground level.

Through ‘vertical’ land development that makes intelligent use of ultrahigh-rise structures as well as underground space, we can create a ‘compact city’ that enhances the efficiency of urban infrastructure, such as rail transportation and road systems, while systematically integrating diverse urban functions, including work, residence/living, entertainment, education, and commercial/retail.”

Model of Roppongi Hills

The Roppongi Hills marked the revival of certain parts of Tokyo’s downtown areas, signalling the new phase of the city’s investments in real estate after the dramatic fall of the industry at the time of the 1990s bubble burst. It is nevertheless questionable if the same principle could have applied to building a similar complex with diverse functions but accommodating not as wealthy clients as the Roppongi Hills have come to possess. No matter how the site is packaged as providing art, culture and entertainment with a rich array of shopping facilities and office functions, it nonetheless presents an aura of an ‘gated residential enclave’ for the Japan’s rich and professional expats, if not the richest (Goldman Sachs is one of the major business occupants in Mori Tower), and of a highly commodified, luxurious space for the middle- and upper-class consumers.


I only had enough time to wander around the indoor Tokyo City View to take some pictures of Tokyo downtown in one late afternoon. While Tokyo is a dense (both population- and building-wise) metropolitan place, some districts do stand out with a concentration of skyscrapers as seen in the first picture below, which shows Shibuya and Shinjuku districts viewed from Mori Tower. The views from the Tokyo City View are quite stunning, including the view of Mountain Fuji in the distance. If my memory is correct, the access to the Tokyo City View requires one to pay for admissions to the Mori Art Museum. It is definitely worth a visit if you would like to grasp the urban scale of Tokyo.

View from Mori Tower towards Shibuya and Shinjuku Districts
View of Tokyo downtown and Mountain Fuji in the distant

Urbanised Village and its Struggle to Survive



Urbanised villages in China refer to former rural villages that have been engulfed by urban expansion. Having lost farmlands, villagers invest heavily in dwellings to gain rental income from migrant tenants. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in China’s Pearl River Delta region. These villages struggle to resist impending threats of demolition, though they give in eventually one after another, as is the case seen in this picture.

(originally submitted to LSE Photo Prize 2012 competition and shortlisted)

Location: Xian Village, Guangzhou, China

Date: December 2011

Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong


Last month in December 2011, I paid another research trip to Hong Kong. Due to my short stay, I was not able to visit many places nor meet  friends as much as I hoped for. One place that I happened to pass by was Chungking Mansions, which is one of the unique landmarks in Hong Kong. First opened in 1961 as a trendy living place for the relatively affluent at the time, it is located on Nathan Road, Kowloon, not too far from the waterfront. The following note was actually prepared when I paid an earlier visit back in May 2011, accompanied by a colleague of mine Surajit who now teaches in Abu Dhabi University. (Hence, my thanks to him for the informative discussion at the time)

View Larger Map on Google Map for the location of Chungking Mansions

Its first two storeys are used as malls accommodating various stores (currently dominated by south asian restaurants, electronics/gadget shops and DVDs), and other upper floors are residential. The building complex has five towers, and I hear each tower has 18 floors: other than the ground floor, lifts take people up to the 16th floor, and there is yet another 17th floor which is not reached by the lift system. The rooftop has connection to other towers so that people in the tower’s middle section can be evacuated more easily in case of fire. Continue reading

Hopewell Centre and Wanchai redevelopment in Hong Kong

When I was told to come to the Hopewell Centre for a meeting this afternoon, it did not ring a bell to me that this was the tower that housed the famous revolving bar/restaurant on the 62nd floor. The name sounded familiar from the moment I read it, but I suppose I must have completely forgotten about it until today. So, it took me nearly half an hour of wandering around Wanchai before finally identifying the 64-storey tower, which used to be the tallest tower in Hong Kong during the 1980s.


Hopewell Centre’s name comes from the Hopewell Holdings Limited, a HK-listed property company, and the top floors of the Centre accommodate headquarters of this company. The CEO of the Hopewell Holdings, Sir Gordon Wu, is ranked the 38th richest person in Hong Kong earlier this year, according to the Forbes report on Hong Kong’s Richest. The tower’s revolving restaurant is a must-visit place for those who would like to have a bird’s eye view of Hong Kong while enjoying a drink. It seems to have taken about one hour to make one full circle today. A pint of beer, Heineken, cost about 60 Hong Kong dollars, which was actually not too bad, given what I could take away as a memory in return. Sadly, my camera battery ran out early on, and these two pictures were what I could shoot. Another excuse to come back when I make my next visit to Hong Kong…

As mentioned earlier, the Hopewell Centre used to be the tallest building in Hong Kong until the late 1980s. I remember coming to this tower with my parents and to the revolving restaurant (less often than going to the Victoria Peak though). I cannot clearly remember now, but I suppose the view from the restaurant must have been magnificent, as the tower looked down upon every building around it at the time.

On the other hand, the view from the ground level is very different. Thanks to my earlier confusion that led me to wander around Wanchai for nearly half an hour, I was able to have a closer view of latest redevelopment projects in this part of Wanchai. Several pockets of Wanchai’s old district are now demolished, and construction workers are laying the foundation for reconstruction. While the bird’s eye view from the top of the Hopewell Centre projects Hong Kong’s more global image, the Wanchai district within which the Hopewell Centre is located provides a rich life of Hong Kong’s ordinary residents. The district is home to not only many night clubs and bars, but also to street markets, vendors and specialized small firms, which are frequented by local Hong Kong residents. Visitors to Hong Kong tend to associate Hong Kong with luxury goods and duty-free shops, but what lie behind buildings, hidden from the view from main streets, are what truly enrich the time and space of Hong Kong.


These endogenous characteristics seem to face a great pressure of extinction due to a series of redevelopment proposed and implemented in this district. During my one-hour walk today, it was easy to find many sites of demolition and redevelopment. Interestingly, they were mostly bearing the name of the Hopewell Holdings Limited, strongly suggesting that the property firm is behind these projects. I haven’t yet had a chance to find out the extent of the company’s involvement in these projects or their ownership/finance structure. The scale of intrusion of these projects into people’s life, however, is simply amazing and difficult to describe. Perhaps the on-going process here typifies what an urban renewal project means to local people in contemporary Hong Kong. It is difficult to argue against any kind of demolition and reconstruction when one observes the status of severe dilapidation of some of the old, poorly maintained buildings. However, when projects are largely promoted and designed by developers to meet the taste of the rich who have a very different notion of urban life, they become a serious threat to people who pursue their daily life under current use of space, which may not be the highest and best use of land from the perspective of developers. Hong Kong seen from above at the top of the Hopewell Centre is certainly different from that experienced on the ground.


(The bottom left picture above shows the round-shaped Hopewell Centre in the background)

FWD: 뉴타운 재개발? 중단하?

?전? 참여정부?서 근무하시다 지금? 세종대학??서 재?하고 계시는 김수현?수께서 경?대 정? ?수와 함께 작성하신 ‘격문’ 입니다. 무한 펌? 권장하시니 주변 분들?게? 전달하시어 ?리 ?혔으면 하는 마?? 전달해 드립니다. 문서 바로 보기 – 여기를 ?릭하세요

제 연구 분야 역시 ?시재?, 재개발? 정치학, 저소?층 주민 삶 등? ?함?어 있는?요, 현재 ?아시아 ?국?서 진행?는 재개발 정책? 한결같? 부?산 ?본? ?윤 극대화, ?? 정부 보장 (?는 주?)가 밑바탕? 깔려 있는 듯 합니다. Capital ?는 Expertise 와 같? ??? 빈약하여 정책 ?향력? 미미한 ?시 서민? ?러한 개발 과정?서 소외?는 모습? ?아시아 여러 ?시?서 공통?으로 발견합니다…