Gentrification is Global

I get wrapped up in issues about gentrification in Seattle — my home town. When I do look up to see how this story plays out elsewhere, it’s San Francisco or Oakland or Portland. These cities reflect my local experience; I look there for what we can learn — or what we have to lose.

My own narrow focus is why I was surprised to read about the gentrification of Mullae, an industry-meets-artists district in Seoul, South Korea, in Yolanta Siu‘s piece in Places. Of course it’s happening globally, of course it is.

“The situation in Mullae now calls for artists and factory owners to unite in resistance to speculative capitalism. Otherwise the neighborhood will follow the model of Daehangno, Bukchon, Seochon, Garosu-gil, and Jogno in becoming a generic shopping district. Landlords in those areas earned fortunes by raising rents until the neighborhood’s unique features were destroyed through over-commercialization. What followed was not prosperity but hollowness. Young people stopped visiting areas that were no longer seen as “authentic,” and as retail dropped off, building owners chose to leave spaces vacant rather than lower rents. We see a hint of this now in Mullae, as several spaces on Dorim-ro have sat empty for the past few months, despite strong interest. The sole hostel, Urban Art Guest House, is on the last year of its contract, and proprietor Lee Seung-hyuck is not sure whether he will stay, as the building owner intends to triple the rent.”

The story sounds so familiar, as does the call for artists to join with residents to keep neighborhoods like Mullae (or Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, or New York’s Chinatown, or…) alive.

Read the story

from Longreads


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