Abandoned Neighborhood, Mapo-gu, Seoul

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The amount of skyscrapers in this area of Seoul rivals Gangnam, Yeouido, or even downtown areas. I had only explored this neighborhood once in 2017, a tiny sliver of a city block. Even then, I thought there was very little to find here as it had already been demolished. Well, to my surprise, there are still little pockets of this Mapo-gu neighborhood hanging on, but for how long is anyone one’s guess.

This particular section stands out as an Eastern Orthodox church is within minutes of the local redevelopment zone. I don’t think the church itself is part of it, but it’s dangerously close. You should find this area’s location if you type in “Orthodox Church Seoul,” there are not too many in Seoul. I was told that this is the church one of my oldest friends attends.

Besides the orthodox church, it’s an architecturally diverse neighborhood. City hanoks from the 60s and 70s coexist with brick apartments and large single-family houses from the 80s. My first visit was a quick walk-through; most of the hanoks I wanted to get in were sealed tightly. Here are the hanoks that captured my attention on that first visit in late March. Most of the hanoks were seemed habitable. Perhaps the former occupants were over the hassle of upkeep. As the last picture shows, a few of them had transformed into large garbage bins a long time ago.

During that first exploration of the neighborhood, I was able to get into a spacious, two-story house that must have been viewed as high-class back in the day. The bathtub was my personal highlight.

I came back in mid-April to find many of the hanoks I wanted to investigate had been pried open. The ones that aren’t accessible will be in due time.

The most surprising find of the day wasn’t in a hanok, but an unusually designed house with an American-style basement. The place looks unremarkable on the outside, but the artifacts left behind reward those willing to take a chance. I couldn’t get a read on the most recent owners/residents. Maybe it was a cross-generational family living situation, something that is becoming rarer in modern Korea. Some younger people (person)had a portion of the basement, as was the case in a bedroom on the top floor.

Further, into the basement’s depths, we found older, dustier objects like architecture journals and k-pop records from the 70s. I found the cover of a scarce and valuable Shin Jung Hyun record, but the vinyl itself eluded me.

With more free time, I shall be back. I’ll continue to go to this particular house and see what else is hidden in the spacious basement. I’ll probably take more time to catalog the records. There were copious amounts with photogenic covers.

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