Abandoned Neighborhood, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul

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In late August, I wrote about my visit to an abandoned neighborhood with many people. We were chased out by what I presume to be a local church member protesting their forced eviction. Two weeks after our visit, the church had a sizeable COVID outbreak. In the previous post, I expressed reservations about future visits to the place, but I put them aside to explore (carefully) the neighborhood in late September.

Let me rewind to mid-July, a week before I met with the group; I went on a scouting mission of the area. Here are some videos and pictures of the site we would see together the next week. After exploring the mazes of houses, I went back and climbed a mountain of trash to see the inside of a shaman’s hermitage. Yes, I am a dedicated urban explorer; I am willing to navigate piles of rubbish to satisfy my curiosity.

Wait for it….
Sinmyong-am, the shaman’s hermitage, I climbed over trash to explore. It was worth it!
I’d never seen bujeok like this before.
Time for some hanja practice. I’m pretty sure the title reads Cheonbugyeong, or Heavenly Charm Scripture.

Fast forward to September 30th. I had the day off, as it was the beginning of the Chuseok (Mid Autumn Harvest celebration) holiday break. The church’s outbreak had slowed down, and I thought, if I played it carefully, I would be ok to explore. As long as I didn’t take unnecessary risks, I would not be confronted by church members and/or catch COVID. The most important thing was to give the church a wide berth. I would only go behind the tarps if I had enough distance from the church.

This beginning portion of this video shows the area I explored. It was not much, but I saw a lot. Also, the footage shows another entire neighborhood across the street that we completely missed.

While I didn’t cover much ground exploring empty buildings, I spent most of the sunny walking along the perimeter, checking out parts I hadn’t seen before. It’s a fairly extensive area, unfortunately most of the entry points are in high-traffic areas.

A missed opportunity.
Meanwhile, there is plenty to see on the other side of the street, at your own risk.

As you can see in the last picture above, demolition begun in a small portion of the neighborhood; this was the section of one-story houses from the first series of videos above.

This patch of rubble is quite close to the protesting church. As I walked around the area, I noticed the church put up more substantial fortifications to show they mean business; they are not going anywhere without a fight. Their operations base spreads from the church and has taken over some of the abandoned buildings in the area. Church members have trucks blocking all access into their protest zone, along with razor wire hung to discourage government officials, hired goons, and onlookers like myself from visiting. I sense the congregation is ready to die for their cause, including a lot of anti-Moon Jae-in rhetoric. These people may see themselves as martyrs, prepared to die to create their version of a Yongsan Disaster.

I really wish I could have got into this Music Town.

All signs point to avoiding further explorations of this area. On paper, that is the most sensible idea. I said that I would never come back after the COVID outbreak, yet I went back and found some interesting scenes. Much like my last visit, I will continue exploring this neighborhood, though a lot more conservatively and cautiously.

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