Invited talk at CKS SOAS | Developmental Urbanisation and the Genealogy of Urban Rights in South Korea

On 26 February 2016, I am giving an invited talk at the Centre of Korean Studies, SOAS. It will be interesting to present my on-going work in front of an audience that has primary interests in Korean affairs. More details about the talk can be found below. The Centre also hosts a number of interesting Korea-related seminars each year, so it’s worth bookmarking the page and check it out.



Developmental Urbanisation and the Genealogy of Urban Rights in South Korea


Dr. Hyun Bang Shin

Date and Time: 26 February 2016, 5:15 – 7.00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar

Series: CKS Seminar Programme


In this paper, I examine the case of urban protesters against forced eviction in Seoul from the 1960s, and discuss the evolving nature of rights claims that were put forward by protesters against urban redevelopment projects in times of condensed and highly speculative urbanisation in South Korea. I make use of the collection of protesters’ pamphlets compiled by an influential civic research organisation in Seoul, and of on- and off-line archives, photographic images of protests against eviction, and my own interviews with former and current housing activists and evictees in Seoul. By adopting a strategic-relational perspective that pays a particular attention to the struggles among socio-political actors, I aim to understand particular notions of urban rights adopted by protesters against eviction due to urban redevelopment projects, and scrutinise how their rights claims have evolved over time. Such an understanding is expected to shed light on enhancing our understanding on the question of displacement, urban rights, and urban social movements to bring about alternatives to speculative urbanisation in South Korea as well as other economies that share similar trajectories of urbanisation and accumulation.


Wonderful line-up of speakers for #AAG2015 sessions: Contextualising Rights in Urban Protests against Displacement

Following up on my earlier post that announced the call for papers for organising sessions at the forthcoming annual conference of the Association of American Geographers in Chicago in April 2015 (for the original CFP, please click here), it is with great pleasure to see the wonderful line-up of speakers, both paper presenters and panel session members, in the three sessions that will take place next week. Many thanks to all the contributors for making these sessions ever more exciting and inspiring.


AAG Annual Conference 2015

The Politics of Desire and Despair: Contextualising Rights in Urban Protests against Displacement in Asia and Beyond

Urban Geography Specialty Group
Cultural Geography Specialty Group
China Specialty Group

Organiser and Chair
Hyun Bang Shin, London School of Economics and Political Science

Paper Session I

Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 8:00 AM – 9:40 AM in Regency D, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

The Tragedy of The Commons As a Cost of Rapid Urbanization in South Korea’s Late Industrialization Context.
Dong-Wan Gimm, Seoul National University, South Korea

Displacement as Marginalised Property Rights in Australia, Brazil and Chile: Toward a Conceptual Comparative Framework
Libby Porter, Monash University, Australia

Property rights and informality: street food sellers in Singapore and Helsinki compared
Anne Haila, University of Helsinki, Finland

Rightful Resistance in Relational Spacetime: A Case Study of Beijing’s Greenbelt
Yimin Zhao, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

The Fragmented Grassroots Resistance and the “Civilised” Capital Accumulation in “the City of Benevolence?
Zhao Zhang, University College Dublin, Ireland

Paper Session II
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 10:00 AM – 11:40 AM in Regency D, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

What rights do resettled farmers claim in the city? Assessing demands for sustainable livelihoods, assets and urban citizenship among rural labourers involuntarily relocated to Tianjin
Jiabao Sun, King’s College London, UK

The Fragile Right to the City: Homeownership and Speculative Urbanism in Taipei
Yi-ling Chen, University of Wyoming, USA and Hung-Ying Chen, Durham University

Bangkok’s street vendors and their rights to the city
Chaitawat Boonjubun, University of Helsinki, Finland

Whose right to what city? Voices from post-Gezi movement urban forums in Ankara, Turkey
Ceren Ergenç and Özlem Çelik, Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Fighting the right to human flourishing: top-down mode of planning challenged in Hong Kong
Mee-Kam Ng, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Panel Discussion
Wednesday, 4/22/2015, from 1:20 PM – 3:00 PM in Regency D, Hyatt, West Tower, Gold Level

Hyun Bang Shin (Introducer), London School of Economics and Political Science

Anne Haila, University of Helsinki, Finland

George C.S. Lin, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Christian Schmid, ETH Zürich, Switzerland

Sharad Chari, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Eric Clark, Lund University, Sweden

New Publication: Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement (2015)

GlobalGentrifications2015-coverimageGlobal Gentrifications: Uneven Development and Displacement, a co-edited volume that I’ve been working on with Loretta Lees (University of Leicester) and Ernesto Lopez-Morales (University of Chile, Santiago), is finally out now! The initial starting of this project was the support from the Urban Studies Foundation and the Urban Studies journal for a seminar series on Towards an Emerging Geography of Gentrification in the Global South, which took place in London and Santiago de Chile in 2012. Some of the contributors to this volume were from the seminar series, but many others kindly made contributions along the way to this exciting project. To acquire the book, please visit the publisher’s page here.

About the book:

Under contemporary capitalism the extraction of value from the built environment has escalated, working in tandem with other urban processes to lay the foundations for the exploitative processes of gentrification world-wide. Global gentrifications: Uneven development and displacement critically assesses and tests the meaning and significance of gentrification in places outside the ‘usual suspects’ of the Global North. Informed by a rich array of case studies from cities in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Southern Europe, and beyond, the book (re)discovers the important generalities and geographical specificities associated with the uneven process of gentrification globally. It highlights intensifying global struggles over urban space and underlines gentrification as a growing and important battleground in the contemporary world. The book will be of value to students and academics, policy makers, planners and community organisations.


“The political economy of inequality and poverty is foundational for understanding cities everywhere. This wonderfully curated volume on gentrification does this to illuminate urban realities of the global south.” Susan Parnell, African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

“This magnificent collection of gentrification studies interrogates this classic western-derived concept at an unprecedentedly global scale.The book profoundly extends the scope of gentrification research and reinvigorates the notion from the perspective of comparative urbanism.” Fulong Wu, Bartlett Professor of Planning UCL

“This remarkable book, edited with clarity of vision and political purpose, is sensitive to the ‘new comparative urbanism’ whilst arguing that to ‘unlearn’ how we theorise gentrification would be highly questionable. The circulation of capital and the dominance of speculative landed developer interests in cities is leading to massive displacement and social suffering, and this timely volume reminds us that these issues should be at the forefront of our inquiries.” Tom Slater, University of Edinburgh

New publication: “The developmental state, speculative urbanisation and the politics of displacement in gentrifying Seoul”

The paper that I’ve been working on for a while with another colleague Professor Soo-Hyun Kim (Sejong University; now the Director of the Seoul Institute) is out now, published by the Urban Studies journal as an online first version. This is part of the forthcoming special issue on Locating Gentrification in East Asia, co-edited by myself, Loretta Lees and Ernesto López-Morales. Its full bibliography details for citing are as follows:

Shin, H.B. and Kim, S-H. (2015) The developmental state, speculative urbanisation and the politics of displacement in gentrifying SeoulUrban Studies doi: 10.1177/0042098014565745

It adopts a broader definition of gentrification as an urban process of commodifying urban space that results in displacement of original inhabitants (hence not just owners but also users), and argues that contrary to the notion of gentrification travelling from the West to the East or from the global South to the global North, gentrification as a process of class-led socio-spatial restructuring is essentially an endogenous process that helps rewrite the landscape in Seoul to address the needs of speculative accumulation by the Korean developmental state. I attach its abstract below, with some of the images that are included in the paper.

What does gentrification mean under speculative urbanisation led by a strong developmental state? This paper analyses the contemporary history of Seoul’s urban redevelopment, arguing that new-build gentrification is an endogenous process embedded in Korea’s highly speculative urban development processes from the 1980s. Property owners, construction firms and local/central governments coalesce, facilitating the extraction of exchange value by closing the rent gap. Displacement of poorer owner-occupiers and tenants was requisite for the success of speculative accumulation. Furthermore, the paper also contends that Korea’s speculative urbanisation under the strong developmental (and later (neo-)liberalising) state has rendered popular resistance to displacement ineffective despite its initial success in securing state concessions. Examining the experience of Seoul in times of condensed industrialisation and speculative urbanisation helps inform the existing literature on gentrification by resorting to non-Western empirics.

Figure 2. Ogsu neighbourhood before and after redevelopment (project period: November 1984 - October 1990). Source: Photographs provided through the courtesy of The Seoul Institute.

Figure 2. Ogsu neighbourhood before and after redevelopment (project period: November 1984 – October 1990). Source: Photographs provided through the courtesy of The Seoul Institute.

Figure 4. Locations of areas designated for redevelopment in Seoul. Source: Map adopted from Bureau of Housing (2008) and adjusted

Figure 4. Locations of areas designated for redevelopment in Seoul. Source: Map adopted from Bureau of Housing (2008) and adjusted

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 22일 지면 게재 예정 [해외 책] 서평 송고 원고:
(게재된 원고 바로보기)

상하이, 사라지다 (Shanghai Gone: Domicide and Defiance in a Chinese Megacity), 샤오

ShanghaiGone-QinShao하이 정부 통계를 근거로 유추해보면 2003년부터 2010년까지 48 가구대략 150만명 가까운 시민이 철거이주 대상이었던 것으로 파악된다. 2003 기준 상하이  가구수가 486만이었으니, 8 동안     집꼴로 각종 개발사업으로 인해 철거이주된 셈이다이러한 통계에는 농민공이라고도 불리우는 이주노동자가 제외되니 실제 철거이주된 도시민 규모는 훨씬   것이다중국의 20세기초 도시화 과정을 연구하던 동양사학자  샤오가 2013 발표한 저작 <상하이사라지다> 최근 10년에 일어난 상하이의 도시개발로 인해 집과 일상이 파괴된 보통 사람들의 고난과 투쟁 역사를 담고 있다.

중국 사회주의 정부하에서 재개발은 애초 주거환경개선이라는 복지적성격이 강하였다. 이러한 성격이 근본적으로 변한 것은 1990년대 집중된 주택 상품화, 토지 상품화 정책에 기인한다. 국가소유인 토지의 사용권이 시장 거래 대상이 되고, 판매 수익이 지방정부 예산외 재원으로편입되면서 지방정부가 토지개발에 이해관계를 갖는다. 여기에 급속히 팽창한 주택시장에 몰린 투자사, 건설사 등과 공통의 이해관계를 토대로 협력적 관계를 맺은 것이다. 이로써 도시재개발은 이상 복지라기보다는 이윤추구를 위한 수익사업이 것이다.

샤오는 도시재개발이 도시민 거주지의 의도적 파괴(Domicide)귀결한다고 이해한다. 10 가까운 기간 동안 수행한 현지 연구 결과를집약한 <상하이, 사라지다> 중국 도시민의 삶과 운명, 투쟁을 여러주민의 인생사를 통해 풀어낸다. 개별 가구가 투쟁 과정에서 정부 관료나 철거회사, 건설사 등으로부터 겪은 수모, 냉대가 생생히 그려지고, 청원을 하고 시위를 하는 과정에서 감수한 각종 고초와 인내가 생생히묘사되고 있다. 저항을 통해 평범한 유치원 선생님은 고압적 정부기관을 이상 두려워 않는직업적 청원자 되기도 하며, 평범하던 주민들이 문화혁명 당시 슬로건을 역으로 이용하여 권리주장도 펴고 국제정세도 고려하며 비슷한 처지의 피해자들에게 법률 자문도 하는 전략적활동가로 바뀌기도 한다.

책은 또한 도시 개발로 인한 집의 파괴가 주민에게 물리적 악영향을끼칠 뿐만 아니라 이주에 따른 경제적, 사회적 충격 역시 제공한다는 점을 강조한다. 특히 오랜 세월 정들었던 집이 없어지고 마을이 사라지고도시의 외관이 탈바꿈하는 과정에서 개인, 가정, 도시의 과거, 기억 역시 지워지는 집단적 기억상실을 문제점으로 지적한다. 강제이주 과정에서 기본권리가 짓밟히고 이를 회복하지 못한 철거민에겐 모든것이 원통함으로 가슴 깊숙히 남는다는 역시 강조한다.

샤오가 이들 철거민의 인생 얘기, 투쟁 기록 등을 통해 말하고자 하는 것은 무엇일까? <상하이, 사라지다> 단지 철거민의 권리가 도시발전 과정에서 어떻게 침해 당했는지를 전달하는 피해 보고서에 그치는것이 아니라 이들 철거민이 자신들의 존엄성을 지키고 사회경제적 정의를 실현하기 위해 얼마나 노력하는지를 말하고자 한다. 중국의 개혁개방정책 실시 이후, 권리 의식은 어떻게 변하는지, 소유권 개혁과 같은법적인 변화가 역사적으로 형성된 개인의 권리 의식과 어떻게 상호작용하는지 등을 보여준다. 그리고 이러한 일반 주민의 투쟁이 쌓이고 확산하면서 중국이 개방된 사회로 이행하고 있고 개방될 있음을주장한다. 결국 도시 주민이 살던 주택은 파괴적 도시정책으로 없어지고, 관료의 부패 등은 도시민에게 비통함을 안기었지만, 폐허 속에서 피어오른 것은 사회경제적 정의 인간으로서의 존엄성을 위한 투쟁이며이러한 투쟁을 통해 주민들 역시 변화함을 얘기하고자 것이다.

샤오가 주민의 관점에서 풀어내는 지난 10 상하이 철거 재개발 역사는 한국 도시에게도 익숙한 역사이다. 중국에서 강제 철거에 저항하는 주민의 모습은 우리의 과거이자 현재이기도 하다. 한국 역시 멀지않은 과거 1980년대 유엔인간정주계획(UN-HABITAT) 선정한세계에서 가장 폭압적인 철거를 자행하는 국가 남아프리카공화국과 함께 선정된 불미스런 기록을 갖고 있을 정도로 철거의 기억은 아픔의 기억이다. 하지만, 아픔과 상실의 역사는 투쟁의 역사임을 한국 철거민투쟁사가 증명한다. ‘두개의 다큐멘터리가 그려낸 용산재개발 참사에서 나타나듯이 이러한 아픔과 투쟁의 역사는 한국에서도 여전히 현재진행형이며, 그런 의미에서 철거민 가정과 일상의 파괴, 그리고 그들의저항과 권리의식의 발전을 담담히 기록해 샤오의 노력은 한국 지식인에게도 많은 시사점을 던져준다.

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