The project encompasses a central-city plot of 566,800 square metres — about the size of 30 Sydney Opera Houses — and is being designed by American star architect Daniel Liebskind, the hand behind the rebuilding of the New York World Trade Center site. But while the Memory Foundations will fill what is a painful void for Manhattanites, Dreamhub will dislocate thousands of lives — temporarily for some residents, but likely forever for a great many more.
West Ichon: The Next Battleground?
From the site of the ‘Yongsan Tragedy,’ one need only walk about two kilometres — past the withering red light district, shining Jaguar dealership and dubious ‘LA Burgers’ stand — to arrive at West Ichon. The neighbourhood is located in the same ward, sandwiched between the Korea Railroad train yard and the Han River, and now finds itself sitting in Dreamhub’s footprint.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
On my first walk around the area it is chilly and just after nightfall. The neighbourhood is mostly low concrete residential blocks, and their drab colours are obscured by orange streetlights and the shadows they cast. High above and closest to the river stand a row of 20-story giants — the Daelim and Sungwon apartments.
Painted in giant red and black letters down the side of one of these towers is: ‘We will fight to the death against resident displacement by despotic developers!’ It’s an ominous choice of words considering January’s events. Similar sentiments are conveyed by placards fixed to the open stairwell and faded, wind-torn banners that hang from a number of odd windows.
Just across the road, on a lower building, a very different message hangs: ‘Congratulations to the developers! Please push forward with your work quickly and deliver our just compensation.’ Below, it is signed, ‘The assenting residents.’
The two are indicative of a clash not only between residents and developers or city planners, but between neighbours themselves, and hint at the complicated underside of the Dreamhub project.
Because Yongsan Development Co., the firm carrying out the project, is a quasi-public entity, it is able to exercise what is known as ‘compulsory acquisition.’ This means it can seize private property with appropriate compensation but without consent.