Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

State and Space in Modern South Korea: The Developmental State and the Making of High Modernist Seoul, 1960-1990

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Chinar, First Floor

This panel explores the remaking of Seoul as a high-modernist city during the 1960s - 1980s. Under the militarist developmental regimes of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan, Seoul’s urban landscape was remade through various state-led developmental programs (Woo-Cumings 1999, Amsden 1992; Castells 1992). These spatial strategies were the outgrowth of a broader policy outlook that emphasized centralized policy-making, an overriding emphasis on economic and industrial growth, and various attempts to manage and control civil society. In the context of urban planning, these interventions manifested in the massive destruction of derelict space, the extensive displacement of people who stood in the way of governmental designs, and large-scale construction and modifications to the urban plan. These policies fit broadly into a “high modernist” pattern in many authoritarian states throughout the twentieth century (Scott 1998).


Through analysis of these interventions in urban space, our panel looks most broadly at two overriding impulses that characterized the developmental project in South Korea – namely, destruction and creation. Hyang A Lee examines the extensive removal of the so-called “surplus urban populace” from Seoul in the 1960s. Russell Burge discusses the politics of shantytown removal in Seoul in the 1960s. Joon Young Jung explores the creation of the “Credentialist Republic” of South Korea by looking at the re-disposition of top high schools to the Gangnam area in the 1970s. Finally, Baek Yung Kim analyses the building up of Gangnam as an upper-middle-class space in the run-up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. 

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Jung Woo Cho

Kyungnam University

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Russell Burge

Stanford University, United States

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