Monday, June 22, 2009

PimatGoodbye, Pimatgol. Redevelopment at a great loss

Photos from here

Pimatgol: one of the loveliest little side-alley tangles in Seoul, is being razed.

Soon, this:

Will be replaced with more of this:
and this: the La Meilleur building, and one of the more eyesorey eyesores in downtown Seoul,
and this: tossing a bone to the destroyed pimatgol with this mockery of the original back-alley (600 year history?...needs a 7-11)
I hate when Seoul's cool neighbourhoods get ruined by redevelopment or gentrification... in Dali (and that CHINA, folks, freakin' CHINA!) the municipal government has laws about certain neighborhoods, requiring new buildings to match the style of the old buildings, in order to maintain the local feeling, and a city that wants to be a world hub of everything can't even preserve one of the coolest alley networks in the city, and the kind of area that COULD BE MARKETED. Dumbasses.

Seoul is poorer for the loss of pimatgol. It was such a lovely area, and really should have been cleaned up rather than razed. I lived around here for 16 months, and it was one of my favorite times in Korea, and pimatgol is like a maze of wonders, but now it's been cleared right out, and if those homey, bustling little alleyways with their awesome hole-in-the-wall restaurants get replaced with another glass-and-steel abomination. I hate, hate, hate, how the local color gets bleached out for steel-and-glass, and I rue the fact Seoul was hyper-developed during the steel-and-glass era, which remains to my mind the ugliest architectural aesthetic out there.

Matt from Popular Gusts has written a lovely elegy for pimatgol: the kind of place where you might accidentaly have a bowl of makkeolli with a poet. At La Meilleur, you're more likely to accidentally brush shoulders with a social climber or a made-up gold digger.

King Baeksu, who connects with Pimatgol in a very personal way, has more.

And Korea is poorer.


pothead said...

a hundred years from now, someone will lament once again over the loss of the "old" pimatgol when that place is bulldozed and re-built again :)

can't stop "progress"...

Gomushin Girl said...

Just to play devil's advocate here . . .
first, let's be honest: some of the buildings back there were deathtraps, beyond all hope of restoration. While we can romanticize the homey feel of them, and all their quaint charm, they were filled with dangerous wiring, horrific plumbing, and were shoddily constructed. The restaurants that we praise for being there for fourty years hadn't done a thing with them in all that time in terms of basic maintenance.
And the pimatgol that we think of isn't original either. The buildings of the pimatgol of old were raised or destroyed long ago. Everything we associate with pimatgol is modern anyhow, a mishmash of colonial and postwar construction.
The poets and kindly ajumas and fish restaurants will survive in other ways, other places. Buildings are being destroyed, not the sense of cameraderie we find when we visit them. You'll still run into fascinating people, and you'll still encounter jeong. You can't keep it the way it is because foreigners like it and find it charming ~ lots of Koreans thought it was a dump and a waste of valuable land.
Pimatgol is dead. Long live Pimatgol.

King Baeksu said...

" lots of Koreans thought it was a dump and a waste of valuable land."

Who cares what "lots of other Koreans" thought about the area? What matters are the opinions and needs of the people who actually live and work there, and anyway the yuppies can enjoy the other 95% of Seoul that is already bland and totally boring. How would you like it if someone came to your house and said, "We think it's a dump and are going to invoke eminent domain to raze it, because some big corporation thinks we need another Starbucks here. You can go live somewhere in the distant suburbs, OK?"

Anyway, please go have a cup of coffee at the new cafe on the first floor of Chongno Town, which is mostly full of young barbies photographing themselves in their cellphones, and tell me if you can "still encounter the same kind of jong of old P'imat-gol." LOL!

callyjane said...

I've lived in Seoul for seven years now, and for the love of humanity I wish I had a cheon won for every time I've seen a run-down building or yes, an entire neighborhood, disappear and be replaced by even more ugliness ...

That's why, for me, the disappearing of Pimatgol brings to mind this quote, from Seneca:

Why weep over parts of life?
The whole of it calls for tears.

Roboseyo said...

see, if I knew it would be replaced by something as cool...or even just 80% as cool, up to fire codes, and unlikely to be taken over by the swarming telephoto-lens-for-portraits narcissist apgujeong whatchamacallits that are now the bane of samcheongdong (another super cool neighborhood that's been co-opted), I'd be OK with it, but if more of la meilleur is what we have to look forward to, I just threw up in my mouth.

Gomushin Girl said...

That's part of the problem . . . I think that lots of people, if they're being honest, know that Pimatgol could not survive the way it was. The question is what will replace it. It's the (probable screw-up of) the next thing to come that we should perhaps concentrate our energies on now.
Also, mindful that this is a sin I often commit myself, we should perhaps be a little less condemnatory of the "barbies" and "narcissist apkujeong whatchamacallits"? I mean, I understand the gripe, but I was out just last night with some of "those people" and had a marvelous time with lots of cool conversation. When those "barbies" aren't snapping the pics that annoy us, they're often really fabulous people. Not to say that all are, or that the stuff the do doesn't drive me nuts, but yeah . . . I met some last night, and it was a good reminder not to blanket condemn groups (just like buildings.)

Roboseyo said...

Oh come on. I'm already known as "the happy one"... can't I get irrationally annoyed about ANYTHING?

King Baeksu said...

"Gomushin Girl," you need to exchange your rubber shoes for some Manolo Blahniks, you damn poser.

Roboseyo said...

Come on, KB. Let's not get personal.

King Baeksu said...

Roboseyo, she's talking about a neighborhood I lived in for ten years until I was recently kicked out because of the redevelopment there. It was already personal. She claims to "know better" about what's best for this neighborhood than the people who actually live there. Ridiculous. In fact, the people in the building housing Yolch'a-jip, Daerim et al just don't want to move because it's their HOME. The owner of the building itself also doesn't want to sell or leave the area.

I've spoken with City Hall officials and many Koreans about this issue and many Koreans do in fact think P'imat-gol is important and worth saving, including certain officials in City Hall. So people like "Gomushin Girl" have no idea what they're talking about. In fact, she displays a neo-imperialist attitude when she insists that P'imat-gol "needs to go" while at the same time ignoring the opinions of both the people who still live there, and many Koreans who actually think P'imat-gol is worth preserving.

So screw her, is all I have to say.

Gomushin Girl said...

Apparently the "devil's advocate" part of my argument didn't catch your eye, KB. I didn't personally advocate or like the idea of razing the neighborhood. I would have liked to see restoration/preservation work go on, not wholesale destruction. I'll probably hate whatever goes in its place. I certainly know that many people loved the neighborhood dearly. BUT ~ there's multiple sides to any argument, and I wanted to bring a few other notions about the area to the fore.
Dearest, darling Roboseyo ~ of course you may get irrational and irritated at anything you like, and we'll find you charming when you do so! But since you so often remind us to keep an open mind and give people the benefit of the doubt, surely you can't expect us not to return the favor?
In the meantime, go laugh yourself sick at the image of me in Manolo Blahniks.

King Baeksu said...

God, is this all just a game to you? Why do you even bother?