I can’t believe I forgot about writing a final blog about the Hak-dong neighborhood in Gwangju. I think after the last post in January, it was going to be the last time, but chance afforded me, my wife, and Isaiah two more visits before it was gone. After my previous trip at the end of May this year, a lot was going on for me. Besides my further explorations, I wrote an essay about urban exploration in Korea for the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch’s (RASKB) annual journal, Transactions that took a lot of my time away from writing consistent blog posts. The RASKB also graciously offered me the opportunity to give a lecture via Zoom on the same subject.

About ten days after our final visit to Hak-dong, excavators chewed at the bottom of one of the remaining buildings in the area, while on top of a rubble ramp, all that remained were a weak facade and portions of the building’s sides. Eventually, the structure gave way onto the streetway below, crushing a bus full of people. Nine people died, and eight suffered injuries in this preventable tragedy. Modern Korea has an extensive history of disasters occurring due to embezzlement, shoddy work, lack of foresight, and bballi bballi (빨리 빨리) culture. I will say that the desire to be modern and well-liked by the world trumps safety protocols in this country. 

I took this photo about ten days before the collapse of the building, highlighted in the pink box. This was a slide used in my RASKB lecture in August.

The discussion about the impact of bballi bballi culture on Korea is worthy of podcasts and think pieces, but I’m here to share highlights from my last two visits to Hak-dong before the disaster. Let’s start with an abandoned shaman’s house, a place I’d had my eye on from my first visits to the area in 2018.

We paid a second visit to another shaman’s house; workers had been smashing glass and removing the wood paneling walls.

I’m always on the lookout for orphaned art, and the last two visits didn’t disappoint in that department. I love the K-pop star creepily inviting you to join him in the abandoned room.

It wouldn’t be a terrific outing if we didn’t find old Korean media from the 80s and 90s!

Here’s an old campaign flyer for the former president and Jeolla native Kim Dae-jung.

This set of pictures shows my favorite hanok explored during our January visit to the area. It was a uniquely designed hanok, with a wide foyer area. I remember seeing a similar layout in a former Chonnam National University professor’s hanok in Gyerim-dong. 

I’ll close this post out with a random assortment of scenes in our last Hak-dong visits.

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