Guryong Village in Seoul
In Seoul, Guryong Village is the biggest shantytown in the Gangnam, the city’s wealthiest district. The town was built in the 1980s, ahead of the Seoul Olympic Games, as city authorities pushed to refurbish forty humble districts, evicting thousands of residents from their homes in the process. My mother has lived in Guryong Village for the past decade, and I myself lived there for three years prior to moving to Chicago.
In the winter of 2014 and fall of 2015, I stayed with my mother in Guryong Village for six weeks to document the area while also providing photographic services for the community, such as passport photos and funerary images. I wanted to use my position as insider instead of outsider observer. I juxtaposed portraits of my family members and neighbors with the coarse urban milieu of city space not only to emphasize unspoken contradictions of places shaped by neo-liberal economic policy, but also to reveal a narrative of private relationships, often painful subjectivity and the personality of many of Guryong’s inhabitants.
The documentation of the area’s houses is significant, as the village is already scheduled for redevelopment. Rather than showing the shabbiness and miserableness of poverty in the neighborhood, I wanted to bring out a question about the socio-political and structural reason why the shanty town had to be built, and how human nature has worked there.