Gangnam Apartments, Gwanak-gu, Seoul (1974-2019)

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Despite being known for its sleek modern buildings, Seoul has some pretty shitty, unsafe apartment complexes. Until recently, The Gangnam Apartments took the cake for being the most dangerous place to visit. Yet, people with low incomes continued to occupy these death traps for close to twenty years due to various legal battles. Anyone who has ridden line 2 on the Seoul subway on their daily commute would notice this monstrosity. Situated between Guro Digital Complex and Sindaebang stations, it was a “site” for sore eyes or what my friend Isaiah would call an “eye-scraper.”  Whenever I saw it on the subway, it called out to be explored, but I was always was focused on another mission. In 2016-17, I moved to the area. The Gangnam Apartments had my full attention now. I would go in the late mornings before work or take a walk around at night to unwind from a full day of teaching. 010217e010217b010217a121616e110116d121616f121616g010217i010217j121616d  Plans for redeveloping the Gangnam Apartments have been on the table since 2001. It was condemned and declared uninhabitable in 2004. Despite that, a few determined residents continued to live in the apartments until their demolition in 2019. The remaining residents risked their lives in terrible conditions to receive compensation for eviction. Efforts to develop sooner were delayed due to legal battles. In the interim years, buildings fell into even more disrepair. Tiny garbage mounds began to grow. A makeshift sheltered walkway was built to protect passersby from falling debris. Honestly, I think it made people more fearful of walking in the vicinity.

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Improvized roadblocks.
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The unearthly glow of the Gangnam Apartments at night.

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Over the years, I moved around and forgot about the Gangnam Apartments. Other urbex opportunities came to the forefront.  Pessimistically, I assumed it would take a tragedy for these apartments and others with low safety grades to be demolished. This place was out of sight, out of mind, until I viewed an Instagram video on the subway passing the (now) void of the Gangnam Apartments. A little research into the matter shows they had begun razing them a year ago. Kicking myself for not checking in sooner, for a more in-depth analysis of the buildings, but I’m glad that residents of the Gangnam Apartments didn’t have to serve as a gloomy example.

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