Theses Master's

Cities on the Edge: Significance and Preservation of Hillside Squatter Settlements in Korea

Ahn, Jee Eun

Hillside squatter settlements in Seoul and other major cities in Korea were formed on the mountains and hillsides as a result of an exponential population growth during the rapid urbanization after the Korean War. A large number of refugees and urban migrants were displaced from urban centers and relocated to the outskirts of cities, as modernization and urban development expanded outward from the city centers in the 1960s and 70s. Commonly known as Dal-dong-ne’s, these settlements were stigmatized as blighted areas with substandard housing conditions and low-income households. Within the past few decades, these areas have been eradicated by urban renewal and have been replaced with clusters of high-rise apartment buildings. The intimate scale and intricate networks of streets of these towns are the foundation for the strong sense of community that is characteristic of these settlements. Therefore, the destruction of these areas not only erases a significant fragment of South Korea’s historic urban landscape, but also weakens the socio-cultural identity of these neighborhoods.

Recognizing these issues, there have been recent movements to rejuvenate these neighborhoods, while maintaining the existing fabric of the towns. This thesis will first analyze the significance of the physical townscape of the hillside squatter settlements, then identify the role of preservation in the future development schemes that strive to save the existing structures, as the foundation for reclaiming a sense of community. It is my belief that integrating preservation measures into sustainable town-regeneration plans will improve and protect physical resources, strengthen positive aspects of local identity, as well as provide social benefits for marginalized communities. For the sustainable management of historic resources and for the sustainable future of preservation practice itself, preservationists should proactively engage in the process of heritage work to help people enhance their quality of life.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Jerome, Pamela
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 17, 2014