The Billion-Dollar Wasteland

I showed up at Yongsan Station to the enthusiastic percussion of traditional Korean instruments, punctuated by someone on a microphone shouting "Keep your promise!" over and over. Across the street, a couple of riot police buses.

Personally, I've seen smaller protests get larger police turnout. In this neighbourhood.

I hate Korean particles, but my translation of the main banner would be "Bucheon I'Park!!! Second Yongsan Disaster Promoting," with no fluent understanding of who's doing what. Obviously they're comparing Bucheon I'Park to what happened in Yongsan.

This protest was as loud as a protest could be. People at the top of the stairs were watching them.

All in all, the area looks heavily used, not that badly messed up.

Let's have a second look from higher up.

My work computer doesn't have any good panorama software, so you can't see it all together yet. This middle section being used as a parking lot used to be the middle of three roughly equally sized blocks that serviced a major red-light district. Note that the road on the right is new.

This is the block on the right, the southernmost.

A closer look at the protest.

And this is the northernmost block of the red-light district, the section that was the most ripe for exploring during the slow demolition of the area.

As much as I enjoy rooftops with no safety rails, I never get too close to the edge.

In this direction: Yongsan Garrison, which is also set to be redeveloped into a giant city park at a later date which never seems to stop being pushed back.

It seems that there are three simultaneous protests underway, one for the Bucheon I'Park, one involving Chung Mong-gyu of the Korean Football Federation, and another for a redeveloped piece of land, also in Bucheon.

And this is what's inside the Yongsan Station complex, vaguely behind me. The rooftop of this building is incomprehensible. Thsi courtyard is used to hold many events. It also seems that the minigolf course--once Korea's only civilian minigolf course--has been replaced by a futsal court.

Yeah, Korea gets it.

By the time I got down to the street, the protest was finished. This guy in the convertible in the foreground was also taking a picture.

The Seoul urban experience.

Right in the middle section of the former red-light district, a number of tents were set up selling street food. It looks now like these businesses have an indefinite time limit to bring back a lively genre of Korean cuisine that had been falling by the wayside. I admit, this makes me happy.

Typical street food in one tent.

There is a huge amount of variety though, and I've already come here for one meal (back after a recent tunnel walk).

Looking back towards Yongsan Station, which is now more prominent than ever.

These two kids ran out and went into a restaurant.

This picture contrasts two competing styles of capitalism that exist in South Korea, one the street-level marketplace and the other a monolithic wall.

And yeah, this is a sort of capitalism too, for all the misery it's caused.

There was this little strip of maybe five buildings alongside each other between Sinyongsan Station and the wasteland.

Looking north toward Yongsan itself. Imagine this street lined with riot police buses on both sides as far as the eye could see in both directions, and that was the police response to the small, humble memorial service held here four years ago.

A look back at the street food tents and Yongsan Station.

There's a notable gap in this narrow strip of buildings, where Namildang once stood, the site of the Yongsan Disaster.

And closer on the tent market.

And closer on Yongsan Station.

The northern block of the former red-light district.

These three buildings stand up like three fingers over the area.

Time to head down.

The city's most expensive parking lot.

Lucky timing with the bird, but not lucky enough to catch the other one with it.

These surviving corner buildings are...colourful.

Some guy warned me not to go this way, because there was no way out.

The place was overgrown.

And full of garbage.

You might as well enjoy it, because if you pay taxes in Korea, you helped build it.

Discarded helmets were here and there.

I'd read recently that a lot of impressionistic painters may have suffered from poor eyesight.

Strange place for a bumper car.

Looking back at the mall through the weeds.

Was it all worth it?

A prostitute card in the rubble.

Another tenant of the parking lot.

On the side of this building you can see the shadow of its former neighbour, which was two stories tall and had a slanted roof.

Standing directly in the footprint of where Namildang used to be, I looked directly up and took this picture. About four stories in front of my lens, six people died here on January 19, 2009, somewhere within the frame of this picture.

A few dead flowers had been left in the metal fence outside the spot.

"Here are people."

"Find out the real truth of the Yongsan Disaster!"

Five graves.

The actual site of Namildang.

"The evictees are in Heaven." Myself not religious, I hope that the one cop ended up wherever they ended up too; he was a victim as well.

Please remember that these photos are all copyrighted to me. If you want to use them in any way, there's a 90 per cent chance I'll give you my permission, and be able to give you a copy with a higher DPI.
Copyright Daehanmindecline 2013