Bamgol Village stood on a bow-shaped hillside in Dongjak-gu in Seoul until April 2017. The village was an example of post-Korean War settlements built on unoccupied hillside land by the disenfranchised looking to begin anew after the 1950-53 conflict. Many other “moon villages,” or “daldongnae” (달동네) sprouted up during this post-war time across South Korea. While there are few remaining, these neighborhoods tell the story of people eeking out a living. These villages were constructed by squatters without government permission on the least desirable land (read: hillsides) at the time. In other words, they are shantytowns. Without any government intervention, moon villages developed in unorthodox ways. These shanty houses were constructed with materials at hand and to conform to the available space. Moon villages are joined together with narrow, meandering paths and have steep inclines. A friend of mine alerted a Facebook group in which I was a member of about Bamgol Village’s impending doom. I made two visits over three weeks in March 2017. I documented as much as I could before it would all be leveled. I’ve explored lots of redevelopments, but it seemed the evicted residents left with what they could carry. Many houses were stilled filled with their possessions. I came across houses where all their leftovers were scattered in the yard. Throughout my investigation, I got a heartbreaking glimpse into the lives of Seoul’s underprivileged. Where did these displaced people go? How do people recover after being pushed out of their community? These are questions that always swirl through my head as I explore redevelopment areas.
There were plenty of intense feelings that day from going through people’s memories. This exploration was one of the more upsetting investigations. It’s one reason it took so long to share on this blog. There was one surreal discovery that day. It seems better to end with this.