COVID-19 and Trump’s buffoonery have collectively have made 2020 a challenging year. Despite these obstacles, 2020 was a productive year for me in many ways.

Let’s start in late January before COVID was a worldwide phenomenon and disrupting our lives. I participated in an intensive photography workshop put on by Fotofilmic and led by Greg Girard. We spent a weekend shooting Seoul and had the results printed in a publication.

Photographers from all over the globe came to Seoul to take part. Some participants came as far away as Italy, Finland, and Brazil to experience and shoot a place they’ve never been to before. The theme was “Photographing Where You Don’t Belong” and was intriguing but not the reason for joining. Proximity played a significant factor, but also the opportunity to learn from an experienced photographer like Greg Girard inspired me to sign up.

The biggest challenge was overcoming the mindset of a long-term resident such as myself. The scenes that might spark a newcomer would be commonplace to me. The assignment Greg gave us was to pretend we were searching for a long lost sibling we had never met and try to capture our impressions during this new adventure. As I said before, I’ve lived here for a long time, so I had to take some creative liberties to make it work. I ended up shooting double exposures around Seoul because I imagine it would be disorientating to searching for family members you’ve never met in a country you’ve never been to before. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I appreciated the challenge. It was great to meet Greg and everyone else who took part in this workshop.

As of this writing, The Hidden Hanoks Neighborhood is getting chewed up. The Tatami Hanok is gone, and the Great Japan Hanok is on the verge of being razed.

According to the records, in 2020, I visited nine different abandoned neighborhoods in Seoul, three in Gyeonggi-do, and four in Gwangju. These figures don’t figure in the revisits to previously explored locations like the abandoned airplane or the Shaman Hoarder’s House. I’m not a person to do year-in-review summaries; This is my first time keeping track of such things, but it was a successful year urban exploring Korea. Here are my top three explorations of the past year, in no particular order:

1. The Great Japan Hanok

The hanok’s front gate disintegrated sometime before my visit in October.
The significant historical mangwa made this house one of my favorite explorations this year.

2. Samhong -sa Buddhist Temple

I visited two times before demolition workers cleared out the temple.
Nothing remains of Samhong-sa.

3. The Calligraphy School

It was a delight going through all the stuff and learn about the man and his passion.
This place is now gone, sadly.

This year I also made a zine! My first zine documenting artifacts from my explorations is called The Bulldozed Future. My wife and I got it done under the wire in December. The Bulldozed Future is about finding signs of lives lived in these condemned spaces. It’s composed of artifacts left behind by the former occupants. Sometimes the scenes are heartbreaking, but my goal was to document the lightheartedness I find in my explorations. So far, I’ve only printed a small batch. I am looking to publish more in 2021, as well as turn it into an ebook. Please contact me if you are interested in a copy. 2021 will also hopefully see another issue or two of The Bulldozed Future. In the new year, I also have a new project lined up that will take up a lot of my free time, cutting into writing consistent posts. I will try my best to balance this new project, The Bulldozed Future, and Long Distance Runner. I hope everyone will stay safe and take care of each other in 2021.

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