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Urban Movements and the Genealogy of Urban Rights Discourses: The Case of Urban Protesters against Redevelopment and Displacement in Seoul, South Korea



Despite significant contributions made to progressive urban politics, contemporary debates on cities and social justice are in need of adequately capturing the local historical and sociopolitical processes of how people have come to perceive the concept of rights in their struggles against the hegemonic establishments. These limitations act as constraints on overcoming hegemony imposed by the ruling class on subordinate classes and restrict a contextual understanding of such concepts as the right to the city in non-Western contexts, undermining the potential to produce locally tuned alternative strategies to build progressive and just cities. In this regard, this article discusses the evolving nature of urban rights discourses that were produced by urban protesters fighting redevelopment and displacement, paying particular attention to the experiences in Seoul that epitomized speculative urban accumulation under the (neoliberalizing) developmental state. Method-wise, the article makes use of archival records (protesters' pamphlets and newsletters), photographs, and field research archives. The data are supplemented by the author's in-depth interviews with former and current housing activists. The article argues that the urban poor have the capacity to challenge the state repression and hegemony of the ruling class ideology; that the urban movements such as the evictees' struggles against redevelopment are to be placed in the broader contexts of social movements; that concepts such as the right to the city are to be understood against the rich history of place-specific evolution of urban rights discourses; and that cross-class alliance is key to sustaining urban movements.
Urban Movements and the Genealogy of Urban Rights
Discourses: The Case of Urban Protesters against
Redevelopment and Displacement in Seoul, South Korea*
Hyun Bang Shin
London School of Economics and Political Science, U.K.
For citation:
To cite this article: Shin, Hyun Bang (2018): Urban Movements and the
Genealogy of Urban Rights Discourses: The Case of Urban Protesters against
Redevelopment and Displacement in Seoul, South Korea, Annals of the
American Association of Geographers 108(2): 356-369
To link to this article:
Author information:
HYUN BANG SHIN is Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at
the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. E-mail:
H.B.SHIN@LSE.AC.UK. He is also Eminent Scholar at Kyung Hee University,
Seoul, South Korea. His!research centres on the critical analysis of the political
economic dynamics of urbanisation, the politics of redevelopment and
displacement, gentrification, housing, the right to the city, and mega-events as
urban spectacles, with particular attention to Asian cities. He has recently co-
edited Global Gentrifications: Uneven Development and
Displacement!(Poli c y Press , 2015) an d c o-aut h o red Planetary
Gentrification!(Polity Press, 2016)."
Page " of "137
Despite significant contributions made to progressive urban politics,
contemporary debates on cities and social justice are in need of adequately
capturing the local historical and socio-political processes of how people have
come to perceive the concept of rights in their struggles against the hegemonic
establishments. These limitations act as constraints on overcoming hegemony
imposed by the ruling class on subordinate classes, and restrict a contextual
understanding of such concepts as the right to the city in non-Western
contexts, undermining the potential to produce locally tuned alternative
strategies to build progressive and just cities. In this regard, this article
discusses the evolving nature of urban rights discourses that were produced
by urban protesters fighting redevelopment and displacement, paying
particular attention to the experiences in Seoul that epitomised speculative
urban accumulation under the (neoliberalizing) developmental state. Method-
wise, the article makes use of archival records (protesters’ pamphlets and
newsletters), photographs, and field research archives. The data are
supplemented by the author’s in-depth interviews with former and current
housing activists. The article argues that the urban poor have the capacity to
challenge the state repression and hegemony of the ruling class ideology; that
the urban movements such as the evictees’ struggles against redevelopment
are to be placed in the broader contexts of social movements; that concepts
such as the right to the city are to be understood against the rich history of
place-specific evolution of urban rights discourses; that cross-class alliance is
key to sustaining urban movements.
Keywords: urban movements, rights discourses, urban protests,
Seoul, displacement
Page " of "237
Urban built environment and social realities reflect the class interests of those
that have economic and political power to produce cities in their own
imagination (Lefebvre 1996; Mitchell 2003). Our highly unequal cities can
therefore be regarded as the ‘socially just’ manifestation in the eyes of the
ruling class. This calls for the urgency of conferring greater power to the
marginalized and disenfranchized (Marcuse 2009). All too often, however, we
hear less about the voices of those who bear the brunt of profit-seeking
activities of the rich and powerful. Despite significant contributions to
progressive urban politics, contemporary debates on social justice are in need
of adequately capturing the local historical and socio-political processes of
how people voice out and produce their own alternative discourses against the
hegemonic establishments (Glassman 2013; Gramsci 1971). These limitations
undermine the production of locally tuned alternative strategies to build
progressive and just cities. This is where my focus on the voices of the urban
protesters against displacement comes from.
This article is on the extension of on-going efforts among critical scholars to
perceive social movements and grassroots activism as “knowledge-producers
in their own right” rather than objects of study (Chesters 2012: 145). By
adopting a strategic-relational perspective, I examine the evolving nature of
rights claims that were put forward by protesters against urban
redevelopment and displacement, placing this in the context of condensed and
speculative urbanization of South Korea (hereafter Korea). What the history of
the evolution of rights discourses in Korea demonstrates is, I argue, how the
urban poor as part of subordinate classes challenge the hegemony of private
property rights, and how this is made possible through the solidarity among
subordinate classes and the establishment of cross-class alliance. The focus on
Korea in this article is helpful for advancing the scholarship, as the emergence
of urban rights discourses or Korea’s ‘urban question’ was in a political
economic context that differed from the post-industrial economies of the
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West. Urban movements in the West calling for strengthening urban rights
and the protection of collective consumption was in the context of eroding
Keynesian welfare state, economic crisis, austerity, and neoliberalization of
urban services provision (c.f. Mayer 2009). Korea’s experience of urban
movements and the call for urban rights has been in the context of the strong
authoritarian statism (in the 1960s-1980s in particular) that retained a close
nexus with the capital (large businesses in particular), which refrained from
the provision of universal welfare and emphasized individual/family
responsibility for access to collective consumption including housing. Korea’s
experience also differs from the rest of Southeast/East Asian economies,
because of its rich history of democracy movements that successfully
challenged the state in the 1980s and 1990s, producing state-society relations
that are markedly different from the era of the authoritarian state (Castells
1992; Park 1998; Shin, Lees and López-Morales 2016). Such changes to the
state-society relations in Korea produce a space of resistance and counter-
hegemony, which in turn provides opportunities to collectively advance the
urban rights discourses through active formation of alliance among classes
and various sectors of (urban) social movements.
The study reconstructs the past trajectory of rights claims by urban protesters,
focusing on the period between the 1980s and present. Given the limitations
of longitudinal qualitative research that requires real-time and recurrent
engagement with events and participants (Saldaña 2003), the analysis in this
article makes use of both historical data and in-depth interviews. The main
historical data include: (a) an archival collection of protesters’ pamphlets and
newsletters from the 1980s and 1990s (amounting to 143 pages); (b)
photography collections (500+ images) in the Korea Democracy Foundation
archive; (c) documented materials gathered from my previous field research
in the early 2000s. These data are supplemented by in-depth interviews with
former and current housing activists, conducted during my field visits to Seoul
between 2011 and 2015. Before presenting the key findings, the subsequent
two sections present this article’s theoretical framework, and then the political
Page " of "437
economy of Korea’s urbanization, discussing the changing state-society
relations as well as socio-economic contexts within which urban social
movements by evictees and the housing poor have been embedded.
Antonio Gramsci (1971) in his analysis of the state-society relations contends
that a ruling class’s overpowering of its subordinate classes is achieved
through state domination in the political society and the construction of
hegemony in civil society. In his words, ‘[a] social group dominates
antagonistic groups, which it tends to “liquidate”, or to subjugate perhaps
even by armed force; it leads kindred and allied groups’ (Gramsci 1971: 57).
State domination largely rests on violence and coercion by mobilizing police,
military and other law enforcements. By contrast, hegemony is exercised
through “the consent and passive compliance of subordinate classes” (Scott
1985: 316). This is where, according to James Scott, Gramsci’s major
contribution lies. Gramsci’s discussion of hegemony construction is a fine
elaboration on Karl Marx's and Friedrich Engels’s 'ruling ideas of the epoch’
held by the ruling class in possession of the means of material production, an
important point they raised in The German Ideology:
“The class which has the means of material production at its disposal,
has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so
that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means
of mental production are subject to it” (Marx and Engels 1965: 61 cited
in Scott 1985: 315)
Hegemony can be considered as the ruling class’s imposition on subordinate
classes who may internalize the ideologies of the ruling class (Gramsci 1971).
The ideological hegemony of the ruling class, aided by the use of coercive state
apparatuses, condition the behavior of the subordinate classes who may be co-
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opted, persuaded and oppressed. If the ruling class manages to remain in
power through the state domination and the construction of hegemony, the
question is how the subordinate classes overthrow the ruling class.
Gramsci’s concept of hegemony is often misread as to explain the failure of
revolutionary movements (e.g., Scott 1985; also see the critique by Hart 1991),
but it would be erroneous to conclude that hegemony works to keep the
subordinate classes docile and submissive to the ruling class. Rather, as Jim
Glassman (2013: 254) asserts, Gramsci’s “conception of hegemony contains a
sense of the internal dynamics that can lead to hegemony’s collapse”. In other
words, the dialectical reading of hegemony, rooted in the political economy of
capitalist accumulation and uneven development, allows room for the erosion
of the very conditions that have given rise to the establishment of time- and
place-bounded hegemony. Such understanding of hegemony calls for
attention to the accumulation of latent anti-establishment movements that
challenge the state domination and the dominant ideology of the ruling class
on the one hand, and on the other, changing state-society relations.
Firstly, while studies on (urban) social movements may often focus on major
societal disruptions (e.g., Tahrir Square in 2011, Tian’anmen Square in 1989,
Seoul Spring in 1980 and 1987), it would be equally crucial to understand how
such major disruptions are founded upon a series of quotidian and organized
resistance in response to state repression and cooptation. As Paul Chang
(2015: 7) ascertains, social movements evolve under both endogenous and
exogenous pressures, and therefore, the study of social movements “need a
diachronic view of movement evolution that accounts for the dynamic nature
of contention over time”. In this regard, Chang (2015) examines the build-up
of anti-governmental oppositional movements by students, intellectuals and
workers during the 1970s in South Korea in order to understand how the
major burst of democracy and labor movements in the 1980s was possible.
Large-scale mass popular movements are therefore preceded by various
practices of coalition building, ideological diversification and struggles, and
Page " of "637
the framing of each contesting group’s resistance during the state of latency
(Johnston, 2015). Such struggles involve the subordinate classes in the
production of their own set of vision and political will for just city,
demonstrating a degree of organizational capacity in order to sustain long-
term durability of their resistance to state repression (Routledge 2015a).
James Scott (1985) goes further to argue that the subordinate classes (poor
peasants in Scott’s case study) have the ability to understand the structural
conditions and reject the ideological imposition of the ruling class. The
presence of authoritarian repressive states such as the South Korean state
between the 1960s and 1980s does not necessarily equate with the absence of
(urban) movements: Subordinate classes would still engage with the
production of what Johnston (2015: 628) conceptualizes as “repressive
repertoires”, a series of “small acts of protest and opposition…creatively
carved out of situations where social control breaks down and islands of
freedom are creatively and agentically claimed by dissident actors”. Such
capacity for subordinate classes to be able to engage with resistance and
ideological struggles has been picked up by many critics (see for example
Parsa 2000 and Schock 2005). The key to contesting the dominant hegemony
and successful class struggles would eventually involve the establishment of “a
series of consensual alliances with other classes and groups" (Haugaard 2006:
5), thus the need of situating individual movement in a broader schema of
social movements.
Secondly, the study of the evolutionary trajectories of urban social movements
(e.g., struggles against forced eviction) requires the analysis of such struggles
against the backdrop of changing state-society and socio-political relations,
which are in turn embedded in broader socio-economic contexts. In the
context of uneven development of capitalist accumulation, “geographical
variations in the relationship between states and civil society actors are
important in understanding the context from which social movements
emerge” (Routledge 2015b: 386). The dialectical reading of Gramsci’s
hegemony (Glassman 2013: 249) suggests that “economic developments are
Page " of "737
not…foundations on which politics are relatively built but rather a particularly
crucial element of the entire context in which political outcomes like
hegemony are generated”. The geographies of (urban) social movements
reflect the state-society relations of a particular time and space. In other
words, the repressive capacity of the state, and by extension the hegemonic
construction of ruling class ideology, enters into a contentious but constitutive
relationship with movements, forming what Chang (2013) refers to as “protest
As Boudreau (2004) sums up, the actions of the state shape the ways in which
social movements are mobilized, and how they develop over time. However,
the relationship between state repression and social movements may not
entirely be linear. In an authoritarian state context such as the one found in
the late 20th century South Korea, it is possible for the repressive state to
effectively suppress, if not annihilate, dissidents or co-opt them by
monopolizing violence and utilizing resources for its own legitimacy gains.
The opposite scenario is also possible, that is, the social movements being
fueled by the atrocity of the state violence. In summarizing the complicated
non-linear relationship between state repression and social movements,
Chang (2013: 7-9; original emphasis) suggests the disentanglement of the
movement, “shift[ing] our focus away from the total quantity of protest events
to the substantive quality of movement characteristics” including ideological
development and protester’s discourses as well as the forms and strategies of
This article emphasizes the significance of acknowledging on-going ideological
struggles for hegemony between ruling and subordinate classes, especially the
urban poor who have produced a series of urban rights discourses as tactical
strategies to contest the state-led urban redevelopment and displacement in
the midst of the state pursuit of condensed urbanization. In this artic, urban
protests against urban redevelopment and displacement are situated as a sub-
component of broader social movements that characterized the South Korean
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politics since the 1980s. While taking into consideration the changing state-
society relations, the examination of the changing urban rights discourses also
acknowledge the significance of historical conjunctures that influence the
direction of urban movements: This is in recognition of the fact that the non-
linear relationship between state repression and social movements is further
influenced by historic junctures or what Slater (2010) refers to as “critical
antecedents”. Such junctures often precipitate the disintegration of the
political elite’s leadership and the formation of a broader coalition of social
movements (Johnston 2015: 623). The next section examines Korea’s political
economy of urbanization to provide the geographical contexts within which
the intensification of urban redevelopment projects came to emerge from the
1980s onward.
Korea’s urbanization can be described as condensed urbanization coupled
with industrialization, a characteristic that the country shares with mainland
China and other East Asian ‘tiger’ economies such as Taiwan and Singapore
(Shin 2014). Dunford and Yeung (2011) report that East Asian economies took
less than 30 years to reach a five-fold increase of their initial real GDP per
capita from the time of economic take-off. Conversely, other ‘advanced’
economies such as the United Kingdom and the United States turned out to
have taken more than 160 and 100 years respectively. Among the East Asian
economies, Korea’s pace was the fastest, having taken only about 22 years to
achieve the above rate of development.
Nationally, the rapid economic development was achieved by the
establishment of industrial estates for export-oriented manufacturing,
subsidizing the costs of production for industrialists by the developmental
states whose legitimacy was garnered by their ability to achieve economic
developmental goals without changing the social order (Castells 1992). These
industrial complexes were further supported by the construction of various
Page " of "937
infrastructure and service facilities, hence the accumulation of fixed capital in
the built environment (Harvey 1978). These sites of production accompanied
urbanization to accommodate workers and their families as well as other
service industries. Major cities in Korea such as Ulsan and Changwon came to
develop in this way. As shown in Figure 1, the 1960s and 1970s were the
period of urbanization subordinated to industrialization, guided by the
authoritarian and developmental state that channeled available resources
(e.g., national savings, foreign loans) to subsidize the expansion of large
businesses rather than expanding national welfare provision (Mobrand 2008;
Park 1998; Woo-Cumings 1999). Social welfare including housing was largely
in the hands of individuals, hence the heavy dependence on families and social
network of individuals under the productivist welfare system (Halliday 2000).
From the mid-1980s onward, Korea entered a new era, characterized by
decreasing rates of profit in the manufacturing sector, increasing costs of
production, and relocation of those factories in search for low cost of labor in
other countries (e.g., textile industry relocating to mainland China in the
1990s). The average net profit rate in the manufacturing industry turned out
to be 16.9% between 1981 and 1990, while the figures for 1963-1971 and
1972-1980 were 39.7% and 27.7% respectively (Jung, 1995). The mid-1980s
also saw the net surplus in Korea’s international trade, a turning point indeed
for a country that depended heavily on export-oriented industry for its
economic development. The resulting over-accumulation and surplus capital
as well as the accumulation of wealth by the emerging middle classes in the
country were met by the surge of real estate investment and speculative
urbanization (Shin and Kim 2016) on the one hand, and by the labor
movements calling for fairer share of surpluses as well as the social
movements demanding democracy after more than two decades of
authoritarian statism on the other (Koo 2001).
The absolute amount of real estate investments also grew rapidly from the late
1980s: in comparison with the 1987 figure, the size of real estate investments
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in 1993 essentially quadrupled (ibid.). Accordingly, whereas the share of real
estate investment in gross fixed capital formation in 1987 was estimated to be
18.7%, this jumped to reach 30.8% in 1991, and 36.1% in 1993 (The Bank of
Korea, 2004). Throughout the 1990s, the figure remained at around 30% or
above. Rampant speculation ensued due to price spikes in real estate. The
average price of land in Korea increased by 2,976 times between 1964 and
2013, while the price of daily necessities (e.g., rice) grew by 50-60 times only.
As of 2013, real estate assets accounted for about 89% of national assets (Ha,
2015). In this context, with the industrial restructuring, it can be said that the
post-1980s has seen the reversal of the relationship between urbanization and
industrialization (see Figure 1), whereby highly speculative nature of
urbanization (real estate investment in particular) becomes more important
for asset accumulation. That is, the investment in the built environment has
come to focus more on expanding speculative real estate assets than the
expansion of productive investments.
(Figure 1 about here)
The result was the surge of urban redevelopment projects from the mid-1980s
especially in Seoul, which has been the economic, political and cultural center
of the country. Real estate speculation to maximize profits by closing rent gaps
in redevelopment neighborhoods (López-Morales 2011; Shin 2009) has
become a major means for families to build up their family assets, thus
consolidating the hegemony of private property rights (Shin and Kim 2016).
Here, I am thinking of Ley and Teo’s (2014) discussion of the rise of the
‘cultural hegemony of property’ in Hong Kong and Hsu and Hsu’s (2013)
proposition of ‘the political culture of property’ in Taiwan, all of which
privileged private ownership of property supported the ascendancy of
speculative real estate markets and profit-led urban redevelopment. Coupled
with the aspiration of the authoritarian state to sanitize and modernize the
urban landscape especially at the time of preparing for the 1988 Seoul
Olympic Games (Greene, 2003), the developmental state embarked on a
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massive scale of displacement of the urban poor. For tenants in
redevelopment project sites, there was initially little compensation during the
early years of the program in the 1980s (Ha, 2001). An evictees’ movement
emerged eventually, further fueled by the democratization movement
(KOCER 1998). More detailed pictures of changing state-society relations will
be visited during the discussions of changing urban rights discourses in the
ensuing section.
1980s: Saengjon’gwon or the Right to Subsistence
In order to understand the urban protests from the 1980s, it would be
necessary to understand the experience of Korean democracy movements
throughout the 1970s when the country was under the dictatorship of the then
President Park Chung-Hee (1961-1979). Through the use of police force,
military, Korean Central Intelligence Agency and emergency decrees, the
authoritarian state endeavored to undermine and suppress the civil society
and oppositional movements, while pursuing economic development by
forming a developmental alliance with large business conglomerates known as
Chaebols in Korean. In this context, the focus of oppositional movements was
on achieving democracy, led by university students, religious groups
(especially, progressive Christians) and intellectuals (lawyers, journalists)
(Chang 2015). Labor movements were yet to be organized despite landmark,
yet tragic, events such as the death of labor activist Chun Tae-il whose self-
immolation was a wake-up call for Korean intellectuals, students and nascent
labor activism. As for the protests by evictees, until the end of the 1970s, they
remained isolated and sporadic, because of the high prevalence of
substandard settlements and the government focus on their containment
rather than unrealistic targets of complete eradication (Kim 2011). As the
alliance between the state and Chaebols had been at the center of economic
Page " of "12 37
development, the prevalence of substandard settlements was an effective
means of minimizing the cost of labor reproduction for businesses (Mobrand
It was from the early 1980s that urban protests against forced eviction began
to be more organized, having faced an entirely hostile set of socio-economic
and political conditions (Shim, 1994; Kim, 1999). Politically, the state-
business alliance was still remaining intact despite the sudden collapse of the
Park Chung-Hee dictatorship, as the military coup in December 1979 led by
General Chun Doo-Hwan kept the country more or less in the old order. The
Fifth Republic headed by the then President Chun Doo-Hwan (1981-1987)
continued the practices of the previous Park Chung-Hee dictatorship that
resorted to the use of coercive state power to bring the society under their
control. Socio-economically, the country witnessed the continued growth of
middle class populace, whose asset basis expanded substantially, thanks
partly to the speculative price increases in real estate. Construction
subsidiaries of Chaebols or large conglomerates also began to show an interest
in participating in urban redevelopment projects with commercial and
corporate orientation (Ha 2001). Seoul as the national capital came to be the
epicenter of commodification of space through redevelopment targeting both
residential and business districts. The transformation of Seoul to host the
1986 Summer Asian Games and the 1988 Summer Olympic Games also added
fuel to the proliferation of urban redevelopment (ACHR 1989).
From 1983, urban redevelopment projects targeting substandard
neighborhoods in Seoul intensified with the introduction of new government
policy to implement what was known as Hapdong Jaegaebal or joint
redevelopment program, which was estimated to have affected about 10% of
the total municipal population since implementation (Shin and Kim 2016).
Facing harsh conditions of displacement and relocation, tenants’ protests
grew in both size and intensity. Upon the introduction of the joint
redevelopment program, tenants were initially offered neither compensation
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nor any other alternative housing provision. Under the circumstances, as a
former leader of a tenants’ group against forced eviction in the Hawang 2-1
redevelopment district in central Seoul states, saengjon’gwon “came first”
before any other expressions, as “resistance was to fight the exploitation of
people’s life spaces and the destruction of life” (Mr Y interviewed on 20
August 2013). In other words, for poor tenants subject to eviction with no
compensation, saengjon’gwon or the right to subsistence occupied the center
stage of their protests to survive. Such sentiment was frequently pronounced
in various pamphlets and slogans throughout the 1980s (see Figure 2).
Protesters’ demand centered on the governmental provision of alternative
relocation housing, especially in the form of public rental housing as part of
addressing their immediate shelter needs. For instance, in a protest pamphlet
dated 23 July 1987, tenants from Dohwa 3-district claim, “Stop the forced
demolition immediately. Guarantee the saengjon’gwon for the urban
poor” (see KOCER 1998: 332).
(Figure 2 about here)
To some extent, the rise of the saengjon’gwon slogan could be attributed to
the increasing degree of awareness of human rights concerns, emerged in the
late 1970s as tactical evolution of democracy movements during the times of
repressive state domination that incurred harsh physical suppression of
dissidents and protesters. As Chang (2015: 159) succinctly summarizes,
“human rights became part of South Korean civil society for the first time
when antigovernment dissidents made it an integral part of the larger
democracy movement in the 1970s”. Korea’s democracy movements in the
1980s culminated in 1987 June Democratic Uprising that resulted in the
authoritarian state’s concession to introduce direct presidential election. Such
movements were possible by the formation of political alliances not only
among dissident communities but also among university students, progressive
intellectuals, trade unions, farmers, the urban poor (e.g., informal street
vendors, poor tenants in substandard settlements) and eventually white collar
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workers. Each of the groups had their own movement agenda, but came
together under democratization as a shared frame for collective actions. Poor
evictees took a part in it too, with an understanding that a more democratic
state would protect their saengjon’gwon, as exemplified by a statement in a
pamphlet from Dohwa 3-district dated on 21 July 1987: “[w]e longed and
fought for democratization, because democratization would allow a fair
treatment of us who work strenuously to make the ends meet…[Furthermore]
there is no democratization without guaranteeing our
saengjon’gwon” (KOCER 1998: 330).
1990s: Jugeo’gwon or the Right to Housing
The prevalence of commercialized redevelopment in the 1980s resulted in a
humongous scale of brutal and forced eviction in Seoul. The Asian Coalition
for Housing Rights reported that about 48,000 dwellings housing 720,000
urban poor people were subject to eviction between 1983 and 1988 (ACHR
1989; Greene 2003). As tenants’ frustration escalated, their protests became
more organized: A city-wide organization called the Seoul Council of Evictees
(Seoul Cheolgeomin Hyeob’euihui) was formed in Seoul in 1987 at the height
of the democracy movements in the 1980s, providing support for individual
sites of struggle. Although the state-chaebols alliance was still in place after
1987 June Democratic Uprising as the ruling right-wing party narrowly
escaped its demise by winning the 1987 December presidential (which was
largely due to the schism between opposition parties), it was under pressure to
devise compensation measures to appease tenants and maintain their
legitimacy. After piloting a series of incremental measures, a new policy was
introduced in 1989, which included the provision of cash (living costs for three
months) or in-kind (tenancy in public rental housing) compensation (Kim et
al., 1996: 109-110). This arrangement subsequently remained unchanged for
more than a decade. The state concession could be considered as the fruits of
the evictees’ strenuous fights against the alliance of the state, developers and
landlords-cum-speculators, supported by other sectors of social movements.
Page " of "15 37
As the new compensation measures settled in, a new language of jugeo’gwon
or the right to housing began to emerge from the early 1990s. Rather than
confining tenants’ protests to the obtention of saengjon’gwon, housing is to be
seen as part of basic human rights and constitutional rights (Mr Y, 20 August
2013) (see Figure 3). A former student activist, who is now a district mayor in
Seoul, recalls that “in the early to mid-1980s, the slogan was by and large to
attain minjung saengjon’gwon [people’s right to subsistence], and then
evictees’ saengjon’gwon. Jugeo’gwon came afterwards. Regardless of house
ownership, having a home to live was to be seen as a right” (interview with Mr
K, 21 August 2013). Protest materials also reflected the changing slogan. For
instance, in their pamphlet dated 18 October 1990, tenants in Nolyangjin 2-2
district argued that “we will be fighting all the way for saengjon’gwon as our
minimal right…[People of similar circumstances from] development areas
should unite to be guaranteed of their jugeo’gwon”.
(Figure 3 about here)
The provision of public rental housing as in-kind compensation was
considered by many as having met the saengjon’gwon of tenants experiencing
forced eviction. Protests continued to emerge from a number of
redevelopment project sites in order to address unresolved issues such as
support for temporary relocation, and more violent fights broke out
sporadically involving groups of ineligible tenants against displacement.
However, the attention of activists and progressive intellectuals began to steer
towards improving the legal system for general housing welfare of the poor,
thus the right to housing (KOCER 1998; Lee 2012). A major development was
the establishment of the National Coalition for Housing Rights (hereafter
NCHR) in 1990 as an umbrella organization by a number of social movement
organizations including those of evictees and housing activists and progressive
religious groups: as the declaration for the NCHR establishment states, the
organization aimed at the acquisition of the right to housing as its major goal,
proclaiming it as people’s basic right.
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The shift towards improving the legal system and housing welfare provision
throughout the 1990s can be seen as an extension to the institutionalization of
social movements that constitute what Prujit and Roggerband (2014) refers to
as a “dual movement structure”. Autonomous and institutionalized social
movements in a dual movement structure benefit from each other in the
context of a more open political environment, as the former creates disruptive
actions to add pressure on the state while the latter provides institutionalized
support and legitimacy for social movements. The series of political changes
in the first half of the 1990s in Korea enabled the transition from autonomous
social movements to institutionalized social movements. The developmental
state, having its legitimacy challenged by the democracy movements, made
efforts to distance away from the authoritarianism of the 1970s and 1980s.
The political reform in the early 1990s also included the establishment of local
assemblies from 1991 and the implementation of the direct election of mayors
and provincial governors from 1995. Like many other sectors that took part in
the earlier democracy movements, housing activists and supporting networks
pursued the establishment of institutional arrangements so as to integrate
housing rights and access to affordable housing as part of governmental
frames. For instance, a number of Korean civil society delegates who
participated in the 1996 Habitat II conference joined hands to establish action
plans to legislate the Basic Housing Rights Act as part of advancing the right
to housing (see Park and Kim 1998; Seo 1999).
The shift from saengjon’gwon to jugeo’gwon also reflects the rapidly
diminishing stocks of affordable housing for the urban poor, resulting from
mounting interests in real estate investments. The developmental state still
kept its close nexus with businesses: Having previously faced resistance from
the organized labor movements and with the decreasing rates of profit in the
manufacturing sector, the state-business alliance opted for segyehwa’ or
globalization, involving selective overseas relocation of production bases,
transnational investment, and liberalization of financial industry. The direct
election of local assembly members, mayors and governors laid the foundation
Page " of "17 37
for the rise of local ‘growth machines’, further propelling investments in real
estate properties and infrastructure. Large-scale urban redevelopment
projects ensued especially in Seoul, which witnessed government efforts to
transform the national capital into a world city, and involved active
participation of construction subsidiaries of major chaebols. Rapidly
disappearing affordable housing stocks and the sharp increase in housing
rents due to mega-displacement of poor tenants led to growing awareness of
housing as a basic right. For many activists working in poor neighborhoods,
the major concern in the 1990s was how to ensure the housing right of poor
residents who faced eviction as such neighborhoods became subject to mega-
redevelopment projects (BJUBW 2017). The emphasis on housing rights
continued to exert its presence, albeit with limited success, during the times of
post-crisis Korean welfare statism that involved the establishment of social
safety nets for the victims (including homeless people) of the economic crisis
in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
2000s: Jeongju’gwon or the Right to Settlements
Despite the efforts by the civil society organizations to legislate the Basic
Housing Rights Act, they faced a barrier especially due to the severe downturn
of the national economy following the Asian financial crisis. In order to
stimulate economic recovery, the promotion of real estate development
remained intact (Ha 2010). Reformist policies such as the Basic Housing
Rights Act were seen as hindrance to real estate development, especially by
“those established interests who gained much of developmental profits
through redevelopment. [Private] Property rights were prioritized” (interview
with Mr Y, 20 August 2013).
Investment in fixed assets, especially infrastructure and real estate,
characterized the post-crisis recovery efforts especially at the local scale. In
Seoul, having experienced a brief period of slump after the Asian financial
crisis, urban redevelopment picked up its pace again in the early 2000s, this
time led by the then Seoul mayor Lee Myung-Bak (2002-2006) whose
Page " of "18 37
previous position as the CEO of Korea’s largest construction firm aligned him
with real estate interests (Doucette, 2010). In line with his mayoral election
manifesto that promised boosterish developmental projects, the mayor Lee
Myung-Bak, a member of the conservative Grand National Party, gave birth to
the highly speculative mega-district redevelopment program, euphonically
coined as ‘new town development’. Pilot projects began in northern Seoul,
targeting those urban districts that escaped the fervor of urban redevelopment
in the previous decade and thus witnessed widened rent gaps. Becoming a
new town program site was met by an instantaneous surge of property value,
thus providing opportunities for speculative gains for property-owners and
absentee landlords-cum-speculators (Shin and Kim 2016).
In response to the new town program as an area-wide initiative, housing
activists turned their attention towards promoting jeongju’gwon or the right
to human settlements. This shift was to acknowledge the importance of going
beyond the individual housing unit and placing housing in a wider context of
settlement that encompasses multiple dimensions of habitation.
Jeongju’gwon was recognized as a concept that “encompassed jugeo’gwon, as
well as the concept of local community [jiyeog sahoi in Korean]” (Mr Y, 20
August 2013). In their on-line posting dated 8 April 2003, the National
Council of Center to Victims of Forced Evictions, a non-governmental
advocacy organization for the protection of people’s rights against forced
eviction founded in April 1993, has correspondingly reframed the objective
their activities, explaining that they pursue jeongju’gwon movement based
on reasons and rationale. Based on jeongju’gwon, we do our best to prevent
quality of life from degrading by redevelopment that endangers residents’
jeongju’gwon” (NCCVFE 2003).
Post-2009: the emergence of Dosi’gwon or the Right to the City
The conceptualization of jeongju’gwon in response to the rise of new town
projects experienced further transformation from 2009. This was precipitated
by the tragic conclusion of small business tenants’ protests in Yongsan, Seoul,
Page " of "19 37
in January 2009 when six people (five protesters and one policeman) died in
the midst of police SWAT team operation carrying out military style
suppression of small business tenant protesters. This tragedy as a key historic
juncture was a wake-up call for housing activists and critical scholars as well
as civil society organizations who painfully admitted that the state violence
against eviction still persisted despite the country’s nominal democratization.
Another major revelation was the limitation of the 1989 compensation regime,
which failed to take into account small business tenants who were left without
adequate compensation. Small business tenants came to be core members of
evictee organizations, as a housing activist notes in an interview (Mr L, 15
December 2011): “From 2000, more than 80% of the members of evictee
organizations such as the National Council of Center to Victims of Forced
Evictions or the Urban Poor Evictees’ Union were business tenants”.
Two successive national governments from 2008 were headed by the
Presidents from the right-wing party that managed to restore its power after
having lost the 1997 and 2002 Presidential elections in a row. The election of
the former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-Bak as President in 2007 also signaled a
major shift of economic policies towards heavier investment in the built
environment including continued expansion of real estate investments and
urban redevelopment projects. This also meant that the previous efforts to
institutionalize social movements and by extension to institutionalize various
social rights including housing rights also faced retreat, as the state resorted
to the repressive use of its power to subdue social movements and
oppositional voices that were critical of the new right-wing governments. The
Yongsan tragedy was seen to be on the extension of such state violence.
Since the Yongsan tragedy in 2009, there has been a noticeable degree of
attention to incorporating dosi’gwon or the ‘right to the city’ concept in urban
movements for social justice, influenced in part by the works of critical Korean
geographers (e.g., Kim 2009; Hwang 2010) and human rights activists (Miryu
2010). Kim (2009) for instance reflects upon the tragedy of Yongsan, and
Page " of "20 37
argues that dosi’gwon is to be adopted as the key slogan to fight dispossession
resulting from urban redevelopment. To some extent, the attention to the
‘right to the city’ was to overcome the predominant focus on residential
tenants in the previous housing movements. As housing activist Mr L points
out (interviewed 15 December 2011), “urban researchers or those members of
housing rights movement groups neglected the business tenants’ problems. It
was not easy for them to connect business tenants with a certain concept of
right, and there was hardly any research or consideration for supporting them
[the struggles of small business tenants]”. Another business tenant further
expressed that “to me, the struggle of commercial tenants has only just begun”
(interviewed 20 December 2011).
Against the above backdrop, human rights activists and evictee organizations
have worked together in alliance to launch a campaign to legislate the
Protection from Forced Eviction Act. According to a human rights activist (Ms
M interviewed on 15 December 2011), this was based on an increasing degree
of awareness that forced eviction should be seen as the violation of basic
human rights. The movement to legislate the Protection from Forced Eviction
Act was to draw people’s attention to the human dimension and costs
associated with the demolition of building structures. In collaboration with
academics such as those members of the Korean Association of Space &
Environment Research and legal professions (e.g., Democratic Legal Studies
Association), a draft Act was motioned as a new bill by the supportive
members of the National Assembly (The Kyunghyang Shinmun 2011). As of
January 2017, the bill has not passed and it is not clear how soon it would
come to be fully legislated. The major barrier is thought to be the hegemony of
property rights, as the Act would constrain any attempt to turn properties into
a ‘higher and better’ use for speculative profit gains.
Page " of "21 37
The history of the urban poor’s struggle against eviction in Korea can be
understood as the history of the subordinate classes challenging the legitimacy
of the capitalist accumulation regime that sought to maximize its gains from
socially unjust urban transformation (c.f. Weber 2002). The physical struggle
accompanied an ideological struggle. The review of the archival records of
pamphlets and protest materials makes it evident that there is no lack of
understanding among the protesters with regard to the exploitative nature of
urban redevelopment based on capturing the rent gaps. From the early days,
evictees resisting forced eviction retained acute awareness of unequal power
relations manifested in their neighborhoods, as partly noted in the previous
sections. A newsletter published by the Seoul Council of Evictees (Seoul
Cheolgeomin Hyeob’euihui) on 21 November 1987 states on the cover page
that “the urban poor has the natural obligation to fight till the end
redevelopment and demolition carried out by the monopoly chaebol such as
Hangug Geon’eob, Daelim Saneop, and Hyundai Geonseol under the auspice
of military dictatorship headed by Chun and Rho [presidents]” (see KOCER
1998: 178).
Challenging the state, developers and the hegemony of private property rights
was accompanied and supported by the formation of wide-encompassing
alliance: Evictees reached out to student activists and civil society
organizations, who were integral members of local activism in poor
neighborhoods (BJUBW 2017). Protesters’ discourses revealed their acute
awareness of the importance of positioning the struggle in a broader context
of fighting capitalist exploitation. This was possible, to some extent, because
of the historic legacy of Korea’s democracy movements (also known as
minjung [common people’s] movements) during the times of dictatorship and
military regimes between the 1960s and the 1980s (see Lee 2007 for the
minjung movement). Particularly in the 1980s, after nearly two decades of
Page " of "22 37
military dictatorship, Korea saw the outburst of social movements, led by
intellectuals, students, farmers, the urban poor and workers, demanding not
only real democracy but also redistributive justice. In this regard, Korea was
not lacking efforts to establish cross-class alliances (see also Chang 2015).
This is the environment within which housing activism, and more recently
anti-gentrification movement, in Korea have been embedded. Going back to
the Yongsan tragedy in January 2009, in the evening of the day of the tragedy,
more than 80 civil society and political organizations held a candlelight vigil
with the presence of thousands of citizens, which then led to a more violent
street protest in the late evening (The Seoul Institute 2017: 115). Overnight
discussions among activists resulted in the formation of a committee that saw
the participation of more than 80 civil society organizations including those
working to enhance urban poor’s housing rights: they aimed at bringing
justice to those who were responsible for the forced and brutal oppression of
evictees (The Seoul Institute 2017: 116).
It is interesting to note how such interaction between evictees and other social
groups enabled the evictees to acquire the languages of protest and rights
claims, and that poor tenants’ resistance to redevelopment and displacement
did not emerge out of the blue. Mr Y who was the head of tenants group in the
Hawang 2-1 redevelopment district in central Seoul in 1993 (interviewed 20
August 2013) recalls that the most frequently expressed slogan was the
demand for the right to housing, but this was the result of education, helping
them continue their fight. Kim’s (2017) review of the history of local activism
pre-dating redevelopment in the Hawang 2-1 redevelopment district reveals
how the build-up of local activism throughout the 1980s and early 1990s
enabled the effective organization of tenants’ efforts to resist displacement.
The tenants’ organization was rooted in a children’s study group organized by
local activists for the poor in Hawang and adjacent neighborhoods. Local
activists, who settled down in the neighborhoods from 1987, held various
educational sessions to inform children’s mothers about redevelopment and
Page " of "23 37
displacement, and the mothers brought their husbands to be also involved
when tenants’ organization was to be formed. Mr Y quoted above was also one
of the husbands. Local activists in the neighborhoods also came together to
organize a local council of activists (1989-1994) to coordinate their activities.
The key figures among the activists were a married couple, both of whom were
seasoned activists for the poor. They began their activism from the early
1970s, and the husband in particular had experiences of working with tenants
against displacement in the 1970s: such experiences turned out to be
beneficial for the education of local activists in Hawang 2-1 district and
adjacent neighborhoods (see Kim 2017).
The solidarity among evictees, local activists, and other civil society
organizations, as well as their efforts to pursue cross-class alliance is quite
encouraging for achieving social justice through progressive urban
movements, as these initiatives allow them not to be confined to their self-
interest. For a number of more persistent protesters who continue to exercise
activism and engage with long-term social movement, their long-term
commitments seem to develop class consciousness. The chair of the Korea
Evictees Association who has been leading the organization for more than two
decades explains how his struggle for the right to housing has led to his
realization of the importance of cross-class alliance: “Resolving the right to
housing issue does not solve everything. We need to open our eyes to the labor
movement too. Evictee’s movement alone does not resolve capitalist
contradictions. Workers, evictees and farmers all have to work together” (see
Choi et al. 2009: 189)
Nevertheless, as discussed earlier, the fact that the efforts to legislate the
Protection from Forced Eviction Act have been facing barriers suggest that the
property hegemony persists. There has also been a degree of fragmentation
among evictees and their organizations, resulting in the establishment of
several umbrella organizations due to their different views on what would be
the most effective tactics for housing rights struggle (see Park and Lee, 2012:
Page " of "24 37
17-23), although they may still come together to collectively address major
state oppressions like the Yongsan tragedy. Furthermore, the struggle by
evictees has clear limitations of being a highly place-specific rights struggle
that runs the danger of dissolution once a neighborhood disappears (interview
with Mr Y on 20 August 2013). Local activists who worked hard in the 1980s
and 1990s to create neighborhood-based grassroots organizations lamented
that urban redevelopment projects disintegrated residents and that it was
difficult to continue the organizational momentum after redevelopment and
displacement. This testifies the destructive nature of urban redevelopment,
posing serious threats to the growth of place-specific urban movements to
advance the right to the city and achieve social justice.
Reflecting upon the Korean history of urban accumulation and injustice, the
production of urban space has been undeniably in the imagination of the
ruling class who imposed their own vision of an ideal city and of “a just social
order” (Scott, 1985: 305) on subordinate classes. However, the voices of the
tenants facing forced eviction and increasingly unaffordable housing costs
have produced their own set of demands and narratives about the socially
unjust nature of urban redevelopment. Their demands called for the
guarantee of their saengjon’gwon (the right to subsistence) and jugeo’gwon
(the right to housing), refusing to be denigrated as barriers to societal
progress. The enactment of the National Basic Housing Rights Act in 2015 can
be regarded as the culmination of the efforts made by the progressive urban
movements. Various evictee organizations established in the early 1990s
continue to operate until present, their longevity possibly helped by the on-
going injustice in the production of the built environment and also by the
experience of eviction as “shared emotional connections” (Bosco 2007) that
bind them together.
Page " of "25 37
With the changing economic climate that questions high rates of economic
development and real estate accumulation, there emerges an opportunity to
think of a new way of imagining and building a new Seoul. It is perhaps about
time to revisit the legalist agenda put forward nearly three decades ago when
the National Coalition of Housing Rights was established in 1990 and efforts
were made to secure the right to housing for the general population. As the
advocates of the right to the city often point out (see Marcuse 2009; Harvey
2003; Mitchell 2003), the legal provision is only one of many necessary
conditions for the realization of a new alternative way of producing just cities.
Facilitated by a broader cross-class alliance, fights for the collective
consumption such as housing have a direct potential to make this possible
(see Harvey 2013; Merrifield, 2014). It is about time to rethink seriously the
ramification of speculative urbanization and gentrification, and embark on
producing “a genuinely humanizing urbanism” (Harvey 1976/2009: 314) that
realizes a vision that places people at the center and not profit (Brenner,
Marcuse and Mayer 2009). In this regard, the emergent discourses of the
right to the city in Korea in recent years can be considered as an assuring
positive shift, as such a move propels progressive Korean urban politics to go
beyond the residential domain of urban social movements, and to be inclusive
of commercial tenants and other forms of inhabiting space.
The author acknowledges the financial support from the National Research
Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government
I thank the participants and audience at the following events where various
versions of this article were presented: (1) the Centre of Korean Studies
seminar, SOAS, London, February 2016; (2) The Seoul Institute conference on
Page " of "26 37
Seoul as a Model of Progressive City, Seoul, October 2015; (3) the 2016 annual
conference of the American Association of Geographers, San Francisco. I
would like to express my gratitude to Tim Butler, Paul Waley, Jaeho Kang,
Chai-Kwan Lee, Soo-Hyun Kim, Jesook Song, Nik Heynen, my interviewees
who kindly spared their valuable time with me, and the journal’s anonymous
reviewers for their encouragements, constructive comments and/or helpful
suggestions. However, I take the sole responsibility for any possible errors in
this article.
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List of Figures
Figure 1
The Process of Urbanization in Korea and its Key Events
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Page " of "36 37
Figure 3: Protesters in 1991 demanding the right to housing, Seoul
Source: The Kyunghyang Shinmun (Park, Yong-Su), provided by the Korea
Democracy Foundation (
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... Infrastructural development as productive investment to support the growth of these industrial clusters also took place, rapidly giving rise to the accumulation of fixed assets (Harvey 1978). In this regard, the 1960s and 1970s can be considered as a period of industrialization leading to urbanization (Shin 2018). The opening of Korea's first expressway-the Gyeongbu Expressway-to connect the southern port city of Busan with Seoul might be one of the best demonstrations of such fixed asset accumulation coordinated by the developmental state (Choi 2010). ...
... Throughout the history of urban (social) movements centered on housing justice (Shin 2018), the focus has largely been on improving the redistributive mechanism in order for a larger share of the appropriated rents, in the form of increased compensation, to be given to the urban poor who faced displacement and increased costs of living in the form of "forced consumption" (Shin 2008 The hegemonic position of real estate property was strengthened throughout the 1980s and especially during the 2000s, when real estate prices underwent a rapid increase, negatively affecting not only middle-class families but also the working poor who aspired to the accumulation of property assets (Park and Jang 2016 Redevelopment, a certain proportion of urban planning tax income (five per cent until 1982 and 10 per cent thereafter) was earmarked for a special municipal account for urban redevelopment. The fund accumulated in this way was called the "redevelopment project fund," which was used by the government to purchase public rental units provided in the redevelopment neighborhoods (Kim et al. 1995). ...
... The overall trend of long-term increase in housing prices during the past decades is evident, suggesting that investors in housing would be unlikely to lose their money on a long-term basis. This guarantee of returns on real estate investment sustains property hegemony in Korea and conditions its contemporary urban politics(Shin 2018). ...
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South Korea's urban transformation can be characterized by its heavy dependence on what might be termed a "property-based urban development model." Speculative urbanization, verticalization, accumulation of land rents, and the displacement of poor land users are the key features of such a model, which entails unequal redistribution of development gains in favor of property investors and builders. The role of the developmental state was influential, nurturing the growth of real estate capital and the middle class that sustained the Korean experience of property-based urban development. The authoritarian developmental state initially turned to the use of state power and oppression to realize the urban development that accompanied widespread (physical and exclusionary) displacement and dispossession of extant land users, eventually resorting to the emerging hegemony of property to sustain property-based urban development. By drawing lessons from such experience for urbanizing societies in the Global South, this chapter calls for a contextual understanding of South Korea's urban development experience and the need for investment in "social infrastructure" to construct a just and inclusive society-a society where the wealth created in the course of urban development is controlled by the public as a collective asset to be spent according to need rather than for the sake of accumulation.
... In doing so, we attempt to explore the potential of new radical articulations of the RttC by examining how the RttC has been translated into legislation and interrogate the connection between laws and emancipatory struggles for rights (Attoh 2011). Our enquiry would help inform wider social movements of what tradeoffs are potentially involved in institutionalising rights in a society dominated by inequality and conflict (Shin, 2018). ...
... As urbanisation continues to rapidly unfold and transform societies around the globe, his revolutionary concept gains new momentum in the 21 st century (Kuymulu 2013;Rolnik 2014). The RttC is mobilised by critical urban scholars, activists and communities under existential threats to denounce profit-oriented urban governance regimes (Brenner, Marcuse, and Mayer 2009) that engender displacement and gentrification (Lees, Shin, and López-Morales 2016), reducing adequate access to resources, infrastructure and appropriate housing (Marcuse 2008) while leading to growing episodes of urban protest and insurgency (Shin 2018). ...
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This paper aims to investigate the relations between work and urban space, focusing on the struggles of street vendors for the “right to the city centre” in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. We join critical debates on Brazil’s internationally praised urban reform by focusing on informal workers. Beyond lacking the protection of labour laws, the “right to the city” (RttC) of such workers has been consistently denied through restrictive legislations and policies. In the con-text of the “crisis” of waged labour, we explore the increasing centrality of urban space for working-class political struggles. Looking at Belo Horizonte, the paper traces the relation be-tween urban participatory democracy and the development of legal-institutional frameworks that restricted street vendors’ access to urban space in the city. In the context of an urban revi-talisation policy implemented in 2017, we then explore the use of legal frameworks to re-move street vendors from public areas of the city and the resulting political resistance move-ment. The discussion focuses on the emergence of the Vicentão Occupation, a building squat-ted by homeless families and street vendors in conflict with the local state. Though this case, we explore the radical potential of contemporary articulations of Henri Lefebvre’s framework emerging from the confluence of diverse local urban struggles for “the right to the city cen-tre”. Ultimately we argue for an understanding of the RttC as a process and a site of continual struggle whose terrain is shaped, but cannot be replaced by, legal frameworks that need to be constantly contested and evolving to reflect the shifting socio-spatial relations.
... To help give shape to the special issue, I approached the Annals as one kind of archive of research and theory-building on displacement, refracted through the institutions of Anglo-American academia and their exclusions. Migration (and, more recently, immobilities), urbanization and gentrification, and postconflict and postdisaster displacements are the most common themes in this archive (see, inter alia, Schaffer and Smith 1986;Dahlman and Tuathail 2005;Hyndman 2007;Mitchneck, Mayorova, and Regulska 2009;Ritterbusch 2016;Safransky 2018;Shin 2018), which includes intellectual histories of displacement in different parts of the discipline (Piguet 2013). People and things become out-of-place; the consequences and implications, as Cresswell (1997) argued, relate to the "belief that place is one of the primary factors in the creation and maintenance of ideological values (what is good, just, and appropriate) and thus in the definition of appropriate and inappropriate actions and practices" (334). ...
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... The loose and shifting alliance is a fulcrum of opposition to gentrification. Gentrification may uproot existing inhabitants and prevent the growth of place-specific urban movements for social justice (Shin, 2018). Nonetheless, struggles against rapacious investment flows potentially dictate whether displacees choose to cooperate with owners, the community and/or the government (DeVerteuil, 2015;Ley and Dobson, 2008). ...
This article proposes that the lens of scale may potentially yield fresh insights into the comparative research on gentrification. First, the flows of capital, people, and knowledge in re-scaling furnish a point of departure for a holistic theory of planetary gentrification and a vital reference point for comparison. Second, to harness upscaling and downscaling in tandem, comparative studies should adequately connect gentrification with similar regional/local ontologies to obtain greater ontological power. The disadvantaged should take advantage of a loose and shifting alliance among the pro-gentrification forces to find a “real choice” (instead of a “perfect choice”) for those affected. Moreover, a pragmatic solution is opprobrium against predatory flows, particularly the flows of capital, whose nature is defined by local peculiarities.
... An empirical focus upon Lane 49 and the entanglement of the Lane's materiality with activism also contributes more broadly to calls within radical geographies of protest to bring back "place" (Oslender 2004;Pile and Keith 1997;Routledge 2017), as well as to recognise the importance of materialities of place for protest (Routledge 2017). Utilising a feminist geography and feminist political ecology lens to theorise the permeability of materiality, the paper also builds upon literature of protest and place (Endres and Senda-Cook 2011;Nagar 2019;Salmenkari 2009;Shin 2018) and particularly of Routledge (2017), contradicting popular notions that visible and accountable protest occur only in "public" space. Instead it highlights how public-private boundaries and their inherent permeability can be utilised within protest to enact contention as safely as possible within high-risk authoritarian regimes. ...
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en Since China’s implementation of a neo‐liberal housing regime, housing activism has boomed. Whilst activism is ultimately in place, as increasingly recognised within protest work, there is limited reflection upon how permeable material histories are entangled with the throwntogetherness of place as a site for protest. Employing ethnography over three months, this article follows the emergence, organisation and implementation of housing activism in Lane 49, a public housing community in downtown Shanghai. Utilising feminist geography and feminist political theorisations of material permeability this article contributes to Chinese geographies of protest, providing a local epistemology of housing activism which demonstrates the importance of drawing materiality into understandings of activist tactics. The article also contributes to radical geographies of protest by deconstructing the idea of public protest in a public place and thus offering opportunities to demonstrate how, through blurring public‐private binaries, protest can emerge and survive in authoritative governance regimes. Abstract zh 自从中国实行新自由主义住房制度以来,住房行动主义蓬勃发展。尽管行动主义不断体现在抗议活动中并最终得以实现,人们却鲜少反思具有渗透性的物质历史如何被卷入作为抗议地点的被“丢在一起”的地方。经过三个多月的民族志,本文探寻了上海市中心的一个公共住房社区49号巷中住房行动主义的产生、组织和执行。透过女性主义地理学和女性主义政治理论化对物质渗透性的解释视角,本文提供了一种对住房行动主义的地方性的认识论,证明了将物质性纳入理解行动者策略的重要性,从而对中国抗议地理学作出贡献。此外,通过解构在公共场所进行公共抗议的观点,并说明通过模糊公/私的二元划分,抗议如何在权威治理体制中出现并生存,本文也为抗议激进地理学作出贡献。
... Even if we portray Korea's urban transformation as generally a success story, there is a less-spoken version of the story with a large area of hidden shadow. State-driven Page of 10 17 urban development was fast-paced and effective in terms of quantified achievements, but it was made possible in the context of a weak civil society and inadequate welfare system (Shin, 2018). As described by Won Bae Kim in this volume (Chapter 3), the regional disparity between the Seoul Metropolitan Region (SMR) and the rest of the country has been exac- Third, we try to go beyond the conventional technology-oriented and business-interested approach, reinterpreting urban development as social institutions embedded in society. ...
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This chapter, as an introduction, provides the background of the book, and the key arguments that the contributors in this book try to deliver. Recently, the Korean government, armed with its developmental success, is seeking an enhanced role in the world of international aid by building "the Korean model," and particularly, the area of urban development has been playing an important role in this model-building effort. In this effort, however, the urban development experience has often been reinterpreted in a way that dissociates them from their historical , socioeconomic , and political contexts, and repackaged as a commodity in pursuit of the narrowly-defined national interest. The authors critically review the recent "model build-ing" effort in the urban ODA of Korea ranging from "Global Saemaul" strategy to "city ex-port" discourse, and argue how and why these decontextualized version of Korean urban development experiences could be misleading for countries in the Global South. As a suggestion for academic and policy circle in general and a guiding principle for the subsequent chapters in particular, the authors underline the need to reconsider the Korean urban development experience by means of (1) contextualizing the Korean urban development experience with focus on the underlying conditions that shaped the adoption and implementation of particular policies, (2) having a balanced view on the urban experience, recognizing both the positive and negative aspects of the government's interventions, (3) going beyond the conventional technology-oriented and business-interested approach, reinterpreting urban development as social institutions embedded in society.
... Interestingly, in our field visit to the residential communities in Nanjing, we found that the majority of these properties were developed by original manufacturing SOEs or their affiliations (e.g., AVIC Jincheng, Nanjing Automobile Group Corporation) rather than renowned real estate companies (e.g., Vanke, Poly, Country Garden, etc.). This will indeed prompt companies to begin to scale back their investment in production and inflate the real estate bubble in urban China, on the one hand (Christophers, 2011), and be helpful for those former employees who have been unemployed since the renewal of industrial land in winning their right to the city in the gentrification movement by providing affordable apartments, on the other hand (Shin, 2018). ...
The bid‐rent curve has long been recognized as a persistent law in urban and regional studies. We challenge this orthodox theory by highlighting two limitations in demystifying patterns of urban land redevelopment and rural land use utility in transitional China. Empirical evidence shows that distance still matters to both urban and rural land use transition. However, the property‐oriented and scale‐sensitive functional structure of redevelopment is not exactly what Alonso suggested. The temptation of urbanization, coupled with the resistance of rural revitalization, results in an inverted bid‐rent curve in terms of the utilization of rural housing land. The dual‐track nature of both urban–rural household registration (hukou) and land use systems contributes a lot for these unconventional findings. We can therefore summarize that transition of land use in both urban and rural China is largely institutionally driven, and the Chinese government is the dominant agent of creating a unique trajectory of spatial restructuring.
Under rising insecurity and precarity in the neoliberal labor market, Korean workers have protested mass job cuts and deteriorating working conditions. Although their grievances originate from the regions and workplaces where they are employed or laid off, the protest sites often move to major political landmarks in Seoul, the nation’s capital, with demands for political redress. These labor protests in the capital demonstrate two distinctive features of Korean labor movements in the 2000s: protests go on for a protracted period of time with few tangible results and take extreme forms of resistance. Approaching Seoul as a site of contentious politics, this study analyses the mutual nexus between labor protests and urban spaces with cases that appropriate various sites, such as Kwanghwamun (Gwanghwamun) Square, the Blue House, and the National Assembly, involving diverse tactics like long-term camp-ins, sambo ilbae (삼보일배) marches, and the occupation of structurally perilous structures. It examines which layers of inequality and injustice in the labor market, or in Korean society at large, are articulated through protest methods that spatially engage with specific urban locations in Seoul. With this investigation, the paper argues that the labor movement practices novel repertoires of resistance to neoliberal precarity by choosing the urban sites with metaphoric significance and by publicly displaying bodily torment. These new forms of contention, in turn, redefine the sense and political implication of the protest site and make the space part of the new protest repertoire.
Cities across East Asia once experienced rapid economic growth and urban development under a strong interventionist state. The recent economic slowdown and political changes have pressured them to find alternatives to the previous state-led or market-driven urban development. New forms of participatory governance have been devised to mobilise citizen participation in decision-making. Citizen participation, however, is not simply about direct interactions between the state and citizens. It is also guided and facilitated by intermediary organisations that are state- or self-funded bodies working between the state and citizens. Seoul in South Korea is a case in point. Over the past decade, Seoul Metropolitan Government has institutionalised intermediary organisations to expand citizen participation in diverse areas of urban life. In urban development, a more inclusive approach has been put forward through new partnerships between government, intermediary organisations, and citizens. In this article, a case study of such partnership is critically examined. Urban regeneration in the Changsin-Sungin Area shows two meaningful changes in the governance of the intermediary organisation. The first change occurred when the intermediary organisation recruited residents as staff members and helped them to create a new local cooperative. The second change happened when the local cooperative took over the role of the intermediary organisation. Analysis of these changes revealed that intermediaries have a contradictory role in urban regeneration. On the one hand, the intermediary intervention has expanded citizen participation and improved consistently the engagement of the community of practice. On the other hand, intermediary intervention has served to instrumentalise citizen participation and constrain the growth of an autonomous community of practice while helping the state to retain control over urban regeneration. In this sense, the intermediary-led participation contains seeds of yet-to-be realised potential, albeit with the current flaws, for more inclusive and sustainable urban regeneration, which this study recognises as an integral part of emerging post-developmental urbanisation in South Korea.
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This special issue, a collection of papers presented and debated at an Urban Studies Foundation-funded workshop on Global Gentrification in London in 2012, attempts to problematise contemporary understandings of gentrification, which is all too often confined to the experiences of the so-called Global North, and sometimes too narrowly understood as classic gentrification. Instead of simply confirming the rise of gentrification in places outside of the usual suspects of North America and Western Europe, a more open-minded approach is advocated so as not to over-generalise distinctive urban processes under the label of gentrification, thus understanding gentrification as constitutive of diverse urban processes at work. This requires a careful attention to the complexity of property rights and tenure relations, and calls for a dialogue between gentrification and non-gentrification researchers to understand how gentrification communicates with other theories to capture the full dynamics of urban transformation. Papers in this special issue have made great strides towards these goals, namely theorising, distorting, mutating and bringing into question the concept of gentrification itself, as seen from the perspective of the Global East, a label that we have deliberately given in order to problematise the existing common practices of grouping all regions other than Western European and North American ones into the Global South.
The recent ‘Yongsan-tragedy’ and Community Building Projects represent a duality of power relationship around civil society in Seoul. While the state-civil society relation is characterized by oppression and opposition in the first case, it is characterized by cooperation and participation in the second. This study seeks the source of this duality by analyzing changes in space and movements for opposition and alternatives in Seoul over the past 20 years, using the triadic framework of the state-the market-civil society. We explain that expansion of democracy and neo-liberalism as counteracting forces affects the triadic relations, leading to the duality of power relation around civil society in Seoul. Opportunistic behaviors of the state and local regime, institutionalization of urban social movements, and coexistence of participatory and oppositionary movements are all outcomes of the two contradictory occasions. From these findings, we derive practical implications for citizens’ movements in Seoul.
If one wishes to explain not how the subaltern accommodate but, rather, how they rebel, one typically sets Antonio Gramsci aside. Instead of leaving Gramsci behind in order to explain rebellion, this chapter argues that rebellion can be read precisely through a Gramscian framework that foregrounds conceptions such as hegemony. It selectively mines several texts - most especially Gramsci's essay "Americanism and Fordism" - for usable insights that illustrate the enabling conditions for rebellion that exist within contexts of hegemony. The major purpose of the chapter is to show that a conception of the capacity for rebellion need not and should not steer clear of Gramscian perceptions regarding hegemony, as has been the case for various approaches on the intellectual Left in recent decades.
Vince Boudreau compares strategies of repression and protest in post-war Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines because these alternative strategies shaped the social bases and opposition cultures available to dissidents and, in turn, influenced their effectiveness. He includes first-hand research as well as the the social movements' literature to consider the interactions between the regimes in the wake of repression, and the subsequent emergence of democracy. Boudreau offers a genuinely comparative study of dictatorship and resistance in South East Asia.