"Little Manila Faces Closure" describes a Sunday marketplace set up by Filipinos in Hyehwa, near the Filipino Catholic Church - it's a tradition in Filipino culture to go to church on Sunday, and then head out to the markets to hang out, buy provisions for the week, and meet their friends. I haven't been lucky enough to see it happen in Hyehwa on some sunday, but when I was traveling in Hong Kong, I saw exactly that with the Filipino migrant workers there, and the filipino market was awesome - it had this awesome, joyful, busy-but-never-frantic energy.
Well, Seoul City wants to boot the market, because it has been the subject of a few complaints about noise or disorder, and relocate it to the Nakwon-dong neighborhood (near insadong), where Seoul plans to build a "Multicultural Street" (whatever that means - can I open a hot dog/hamburger/steak stand?) in March. The complaints the district office cited were all of the type that, a representative of the market says, "The problems that they raised can be resolved by talking to the vendors. They are willing to cooperate." Meanwhile, it's illogical and frankly insulting to ask people to walk forty minutes to their own market (which is a once-a week thing, not a daily thing that would be given a place at a multicultural market anyway). Even more so, given that one of the complaints was that pedestrians were blocking traffic... so we ought make them block traffic along a five kilometer walk, rather than just from the church to the nearby market? And this makes sense how?
Now, before we even get into the whole "relocation = giving them the shaft in slow motion" thing (cf: the vendors who used to work in the area that had to be cleared for the Chunggyecheon, who were relocated to Dongdaemun Stadium, wrecking the flea market that used to be there, and then turned out again when Dongdaemun Stadium got redeveloped into the new design plaza... were they even provided with another alternate location this time? Or were they just told to piss off?), why on earth is Seoul trying to gut one of the few really multicultural events that has already, spontaneously developed in one of its downtown areas? Why not promote it and support it? Oh - because it wasn't City Hall's idea, that's why. And they want to build a waterfall. It better be a f***ing great waterfall.
On the other hand, when Seoul seems to be in open war with its own, Korean heritage - razing old buildings, gutting the lovely City Hall building, and the like, maybe it's comforting to know they don't discriminate - they shit on everybody's heritage, not just their own, in the name of development.
No. No, it's not comforting at all.
And why should my English readers care about a bunch of Filipinos? Well, first, we have more in common with them than you think, and second, who's to say how long it'll be before some ambitious politician/developer team sends a very profitable proposal across the desk of the municipal government, to redevelop that other dirty old neighborhood full of red-brick buildings from Korea's embarrassing poor past (those red brick buildings are '80s and early '90s artifacts), full of noisy and unsafe apartments, to raze it and replace it with luxury condos that will be seven to twenty times more expensive, and way out of the range of the people living there now, and somebody stamps approval on the Haebangchon redevelopment plan?
The thing about Korea's diversifying population, that Seoul City has missed, is that people are going to form their own communities, and do the things they always did, and they're going to do it where they live, where they go to church, where they shop... and you can't tell a whole population where they have to live, or shop. You can't sequester or ghettoize them. It's good to build Seoul Global Centers in the areas where foreigners live - Ichondong, Banpodong, and the like, to make help available... but trying to require foreigners to stay in the places prescribed for them is the opposite of becoming a really cosmopolitan city. The way to become a city truly acclimatized to the new global environment is to let them furraners do what they do, where they do it, so that everybody else gets used to Seoul no longer being only for Koreans.