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Overhaul slated for shantytown

Officials announce plans for new urban housing complex
Jan 21,2020
The Korean Ministry of Land and the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Monday announced plans to transform a 50-year-old shantytown in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul, into a welfare town with the planned construction of 1,200 new apartment units.

The urban redevelopment project would transform the 10,000 square-meter (107,640 square-foot) Jjokbangchon, where the new apartment units are expected to be completed by 2023. The project will include government-leased housing where 360 current residents of the village will be readmitted to live.

This is the first instance where the current residents will be readmitted to live in the newly constructed government-leased apartment. Another 220 units will be set aside for young people and newlyweds.

The government-leased apartment complex will include a welfare center to provide services for residents, including employment consultations, free medical examinations and free meals.

The current Jjokbangchon residents will be offered an apartment spanning 16 square meters - about two to three times larger than the rooms that they currently occupy - and their monthly rent will be reduced to about 20 percent of their current housing costs.

Residents will only pay 32,000 won ($28) per month, according to the government, with a deposit of 1.61 million won. Currently, residents pay an average of 220,000 won per month, without a deposit.

The government also plans to include the red light district across the street from the village in its redevelopment project.

Jjokbangchon, which translates to “cubicle village,” is representative of the few remaining shantytowns in Seoul.

Residents currently occupy tiny, closet-sized housing units that often lack heating, cooling or sufficient space to properly stretch out. Many residents work low-wage jobs that pay by the day, like collecting scraps of metal or cardboard.

The state-owned Korea Land and Housing Corporation and the Seoul government-owned Seoul Housing and Communities Corporation will be leading the redevelopment projects, which they estimate will cost 298 billion won.

“The people living in Jjokbangchon are the poorest,” Land Minister Kim Hyun-mee said. “This project would have been impossible without the goal of resettling these people.”

She said the redevelopment project aims to reinvent the space as one that allows for more interactions between people of different classes, and emphasized the inclusion of social welfare services.

“We will create a model that will support healthy rehabilitation through various social welfare services,” Kim said.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said this project was just the first step.

“Yeongdeungpo is a key inner district, after Jongno and Gangnam,” Park said. “It is a region where housing will improve through redevelopment, one after another.”

Park said the principal goal of the Seoul government is creating a “social mix” where Seoul residents with different social and economic backgrounds will coexist.

“Today our society suffers from the wide gap between the rich and poor, and conflict [is created by these differences],” Park said. “It is important to guarantee a comprehensive life ecosystem, rather than simply providing spaces and housing.”

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]