The Bukchon Plan


in English Pages 4-17

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The Bukchon Plan These pages are an English translation of part of the Bukchon Preservation Plan published by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in December 2001.  
  You can see the original Korean text of these pages here You can also view an English language interview with David Kilburn about Hanok Preservation here (originally broadcast on KBSWORLD on October 1st 2010)  
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The Bukchon Preservation Master Plan

Chapter 1: The New Beginning for the Preservation of Bukchon
Chapter 2: Examination of Bukchon

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The Basic Plan for the Preservation and Regeneration of Bukchon 

Chapter 1 New Beginning for the Preservation of Bukchon

With the new millennium right before our eyes, during the second half of the year 1999, the residents of Bukchon and the Seoul City Government have come together in order to begin the new active movement for the protection and cultivation of the Bukchon Hanok District. The request of the residents to cultivate Bukchon, as well as the establishment of the
Seoul Central Planning Bureau,[도심부 관리계획] was the opportunity to start this project. This new Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project materialized in October 2000 and began as Unified Plan for the Preservation and Regeneration of Bukchon and for four years since 2001 an estimated total of KRW 84,400,000,00 (about US$90 million) will be invested in this plan as it progresses

In the first half of the year 2001, the foundations of aid for the Bukchon Hanoks was created by way of construction regulation revisions, and the formation of the Hanok Inspection Committee. This committee will have an on-site office, and the preparations for this have been completed. Starting from July 2001, the Hanok Registration Database was officially created as a full scale operation. By this December a total of 109 Hanok have been registered. Funding has been requested, in the form of grants as well as loans, in order to begin restorations on 67 of these registered Hanok.

The Hanok Registration Database provides a structural framework as well as a strong beginning to the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project, and it began with the residents as a way of protecting and revitalizing the neighborhood and therefore maintains the significance of building a community. [마을 만들기] With the new policy of the Seoul Central Planning Bureau, the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project is significant because it acts as a model undertaking of historic preservation.

During the year of 2001, by request of the city of Seoul, The Preservation and Regeneration of Bukchon Fundamental Scheme was created by the joined forces of the City of Seoul Research and Development Sector and the 하우드 Construction and Engineering Group. This project contains the three main goals of Building a framework for Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project (with the presentation of 제도보완 and policy directions), the Revitalization of Bukchon Hanok (with the presentation of repairs and practical applications), and Making Bukchon better for living (with the establishment of the environmental maintenance plan). The above goals provide the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project with the guiding principles and the business and financial scheme necessary in order to progress.

1960 Aerial View 1960
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1. Context of the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project

A: Resident Requests & Changes in Seoul Central Planning Policy

The Jogno-Bukchon Preservation Association [사단법인 종로북촌가꾸기회] is an organization which is representative of the residents of Bukchon. Ironically, the foundations of this particular organization lies in the Association for the Cancellation of Kahoi Dong Hanok Preservation [가회동 한옥보전 해제주지위원회] which was formed in 1988 by a group of residents who opposed the policy of Hanok Preservation in Bukchon.

On September of 1999 this group began dialogues with the mayor of Seoul. Through these conversations they were able to address the longstanding questions of the Bukchon district as well as discuss the setting up of new preservation measures. They eventually made an official demand for this new policy. This is where the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project met its turning point. This group, which had originally campaigned for the removal of development regulations, were opposed to the Hanok Preservation Policy, and wanted to freely develop the area for monetary profits suddenly had a change of heart. There are several observable reasons for this sudden change.

The first reason for this change is that the reality of the drastic damage that the area of Bukchon was undergoing had reached a critical crisis point. The 1,500 Hanoks originally part of the Bukchon District has suddenly dropped to 900 in quantity, and the areas where the Hanoks has been demolished were all tightly occupied by four-storey multi-family multiplex houses which were unsightly. The Jogno-Bukchon Preservation Association witnessed this new development which was making Bukchon undesirable, lessening the quality of the life and environment of Bukchon.

The second reason for the organizations change is a financial one. The expectations of profit-making from the development were decreased due the IMF financial crisis. The residents had very high hopes that demolishing Hanoks and building multiplex homes in their places would bring profits from rents. However, during the IMF financial crisis, many of them suffered great losses and realized the difficulty of achieving such goals. This situation led to a change in the conceptions of profit in the Bukchon district, as well as new considerations for the future of this historic district. A new awareness spread within the district. The residents realized that instead of demolishing Hanok to build modern buildings, preserving Hanok would be of more value, maintaining the historic character of the neighborhood as well as raising its value.

In addition to this official request from the residents, the formation of the new Seoul Central Planning Policy was yet another opportunity which brought forth the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project, On July of 1996 the Seoul City Urban Planning Commission [서울시 도시계획위원회] emphasized the need for new policy regarding the historic and traditional districts of central Seoul and proposed preservation schemes to the mayor. In addition to this proposal was the commencement of the Central Seoul Fundamental Planning Scheme [도심부관리 기본계획] which started to form in 1997 and was finalized in 1999.

The central Seoul maintenance and urban planning goals, originally centered around large-scale demolition procedures, outgrew itself and started to shift its focus to non-profit and non-government oriented renewal projects which would be supported by public investment. Central Seoul Fundamental Planning Scheme explains the need to see the appeal and competitive edge that Central Seoul offers. It states that Bukchon plays a major role as a district that offers historic and cultural value in Central Seoul and needs to be preserved.

Looking closely at the guidelines specific to the Bukchon district within this scheme, several points are emphasized regarding the preservation of Bukchon Hanok, the maintenance of the neighborhood, and its resuscitation as an elegant dwelling environment. The first point is the need to offer support for Hanok repair expenses. The next point is the necessity to increase tax exemptions. The next point is the need for the general maintenance of the living environment. The next point is the need to increase public investment in Bukchon directly proportional to the amount of every new Hanok purchased. The last point was arguing for the need to set up devices and policies which would prevent the further destruction of Hanok.

For the past twenty years Bukchon has experienced the harmful influences of policy-making, policy-alleviation, and partial development based on false pretenses. At the end of this twenty year trial and error period, the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project is a new and welcome start to the new millennium. It is significant that this project began with the request of the residents and the renewed and enlightened change in the Seoul Central Planning Policy.

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B: Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Research & Task-Force Management                                            

In September of 1999, due to both the demands of the residents of Bukchon and the formation of new preservation measures, the issue of Hanok Preservation in Bukchon became one of the prime topics of discussion among Seoul city officials. Following this, the City of Seoul made a request to the Town Planning and Research Committee of Seoul [시정계발연구원] to conduct research on policy and precedents. This was done in order to prepare for the establishment of the beginnings of the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project. The residents of Bukchon actively and aggressively participated with the support of the government. The so called Building a Community [마을 만들기] movement began. From the standpoint of this movement, it accomplished many of the research goals despite many complications during 2000.

Taking a separate route than that of the research conducted by the municipal government, the Bukchon Task Force was created on February, 2000. This Task Force holds the [주택국장] Director of Residences responsible. Originating from resident representatives and specialists, the Bukchon Task Force became officially recognized by the City of Seoul and Jogno District as a legitimate association and its arguments became acknowledged. This was also a group characteristic of Bukchon. The Task Force went through a total of four major conferences where meetings were held in order to discuss and debate the pending issues of Bukchon with Seoul City officials.

C: Establishment of the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Unified Plan

The Unified Policy of the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project was drafted by the Town Planning and Research Committee of Seoul [시정계발연구원]. After this draft was prepared it was discussed among the Task Force members, and then reported by the policy making committees, and ultimately explained to the residents. Through the finalizing actions of the mayor it was confirmed.

Three Photos
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Bukchon Development Planning Infrastructure     

A.   Hanok Registration Database Application

The earlier form of Hanok Preservation practice was the singular policy of restriction through government initiative. The residents resisted fiercely to this policy and demanded the alleviation of these restrictions. Following this resistance, a new policy of Hanok demolition and new development was introduced, inducing a vicious cycle.

The new Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project maintains that its foundation is the residents demands and the new Seoul Central Planning Policy. The success or failure of this project is linked solely to the heart of the residents; the residents must be invariable in their hopes and demands. The project cannot be successful if the government fails to secure the trust and active participation of the residents of Bukchon. The Hanok Registration Database is an aspect of the Bukchon Preservation and Regeneration Project which is geared toward this goal.

The Hanok Registration Database


Personal Comment:
It is true that many residents wanted all restrictions lifted, some so that they could build multiplex apartments, some so they could sell at the higher land values they expected to result from the removal of restrictions. There were also residents in Kahoi-Dong 31 who enjoyed living in hanoks and wished to continue to do so.
We were invited to join demonstrations demanding the removal of all restrictions but declined to do so, and explained why we disagreed. Some of our street walls were daubed with hostile slogans thereafter. However neither myself nor any members of my Korean family were ever invited to take part in any meetings organised by the metropolitan government or its agencies, even though we have lived in Kahoi-Dong 31 since 1988.
David Kilburn.

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북촌 관련 주민. 시민. 전문가 단체 간담회 (2001. 4. 12)
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4. Bukchon's potential and future

A. Bukchon's value and potential

Bukchon is only traditional village in Seoul, a 600 year-old city.

Bukchon, where over 900 hanoks ( traditional korean-style houses) are preserved, still remains in existence as a hanok village in the center of city, although the old figure of it changed a lot in the developing period.

Since the Joseon dynasty, all the people in Bukchon have been proud of living in Bukchon as a high class residental section because it is located between Kyong-Bok palace and Chang-Kyong palace. And many historical and cultural places and heritage sites located in and near Bukchon make it a representative historical and cultural spot of Seoul.

Though every hanok of Buckchon is not valuable as a cultural property, we can see the early 20 century's city-building formation and culture of Seoul that hardly exists. Bukchon is more valuable, because many people still live in hanok.

B. Buckchon's future

If we revive Bukchon's unique value and potency and solve Bukchon's problems, we can find following two figures as the Bukchon's future.

First, It is a charming urban residence and a good village to live in. Bukchon is a dwelling place conveniently situated and easy to access because it is located between both palaces and in central city. Considering that the qualities and quantities of central urban residence get lower and lower, the possibility of Bukchon as a competitive central urban residence is very high. Bukchon's density of population is very low, so it has less traffic and a better residence environment. It is also a rare place that we can feel exotic mood that is in hanok village, and the rich and composure of life also, because it is surrounded by palaces, parks, cultural properties, and public facilities. Bukchon will be reborn as a charming residence when it ease discomfort of traditional Hanok living by Hanok repairing and when fixing environment solves garbage and parking problem.

Secondary, It is the experience of the old residing culture that everyone want to find in Bukchon. Because in these days most of detached houses and side streets are replaced by apartments and multiplex houses, we can experience our old dwelling pattern and culture in the village like Bukchon. So Many citizens and foreigners visit this village and admire the peculiarity and the attraction of it. There are not only hanoks and side streets, but also many historical inheritances, places, and traditions that are scattered. And many artists and many artisans who have the traditional skills live in Buckchon. If we will revive and dress up these cultural resources, we can make Buckchon a reborn cultural spot as well as a good dwelling place.

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Arial Photograph of Bukchon
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Map of Bukchon ??? ?? Click
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