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Architecture and Urbanism in Modern Korea

Inha Jung

Publication Year: 2013

“Inha Jung has written a fine volume, full of very well informed accounts of events, insightful analyses of projects, and nuanced ideas about the unique flow of architectural and urban modernization in Korea. Jung is a mature scholar who delivers a well-balanced and original account that is both ambitious in scope and delivered in unencumbered and economical prose, with lavish documentation should one want to go further into particular aspects. It is a book that can easily be read and appreciated by people outside the field, in, say, cultural or Korean studies, as well as by those without disciplinary affiliation who are simply interested in Korea.” —Peter G. Rowe, Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, Harvard University

Although modernization in Korea started more than a century later than in the West, it has worked as a prominent ideology throughout the past century—in particular it has brought radical changes in Korean architecture and cities. Traditional structures and ways of life have been thoroughly uprooted in modernity’s continuous negation of the past. This book presents a comprehensive overview of architectural development and urbanization in Korea within the broad framework of modernization.

Twentieth-century Korean architecture and cities form three distinctive periods. The first, defined as colonial modern, occurred between the early twentieth century and 1945, when Western civilization was transplanted to Korea via Japan, and a modern way of life, albeit distorted, began taking shape. The second is the so-called developmental dictatorship period. Between 1961 and 1988, the explosive growth of urban populations resulted in large-scale construction booms, and architects delved into modern identity through the locality of traditional architecture. The last period began in the mid-1990s and may be defined as one of modernization settlement and a transition to globalization. With city populations leveling out, urbanization and architecture came to be viewed from new perspectives.

Inha Jung, however, contends that what is more significant is the identification of elements that have remained unchanged. Jung identifies continuities that have been formed by long-standing relationships between humans and their built environment and, despite rapid modernization, are still deeply rooted in the Korean way of life. For this reason, in the twentieth century, regionalism exerted a great influence on Korean architects. Various architectural and urban principles that Koreans developed over a long period while adapting to the natural environment have provided important foundations for architects’ works. By exploring these sources, this carefully researched and amply illustrated book makes an original contribution to defining modern identity in Korea’s architecture, housing, and urbanism.

Inha Jung is a critic, historian, and professor of architecture at the Hanyang University, ERICA Campus.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Series: Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia's Architecture


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-viii

During the twentieth century, one of the most dramatic rises to modern prominence in Asia, if not elsewhere in the world, occurred in South Korea. From a scant three percent of the total population living in urban circumstances less than one hundred years ago, the urban proportion is now over eighty percent. Th e wealth of the nation’s citizenry has risen considerably, from literally dirt poor aft er the calamitous...

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pp. ix-x

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who provided support and guidance throughout this study. This book began life when I was a visiting scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2007, where I had the unique opportunity to develop my ideas in collaboration with Professor Peter Rowe. Special recognition should also be given to Professor Jong-Soung Kimm, whose insights have been truly invaluable for the publication of this book. I am very grateful...

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pp. xi-15

This book traces the transformation of architecture and urban space over the course of the last one hundred tumultuous years of Korea’s history, a time when the built environment changed so fundamentally that it is difficult to grasp completely its transfigurations. Judging from pictures taken by an Australian photographer in 1904, Korea at that time was a land of seclusion and isolation, remote from modern civilization. Th e urban population was barely 3 percent of the total; the population of Seoul, Korea’s bustling urban capital, was less than 200,000. The ...

Part I Modern Life in the Colonial Period

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pp. 1-17

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Chapter 1 The First Urbanization

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pp. 3-22

The modern world arrived in Korea in force following Japan’s annexation of the Korean peninsula in 1910. Although Koreans were initially captivated by the prospect of modernity, the occupation soon brought a succession of miseries, causing those sentiments of wonder to be subsumed in feelings of anguish and humiliation. The occupation ended in 1945, and it was followed by the outbreak of civil war in 1950. In spite of this...

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Chapter 2 The Genesis of Urban Housing

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pp. 23-35

When the concept of modernity began to pervade everyday life, threatening traditional patterns, fundamental changes began to take place in the housing sector. This may explain why a concern with housing problems has been prevalent across the mainstream of modern architecture, ranging from the Arts and Crafts movement in England to the Bauhaus in Germany. Many architects looked deeply into the essential aspects of what would become modern housing and established major principles...

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Chapter 3 Architecture and the Introduction of New Materials

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pp. 36-48

During the Japanese occupation of Korea, architecture rose in esteem as one of the principal spatial embodiments of modern life. Yet it failed to deliver meaningful outcomes. There were several reasons for this. First, there were no architects who could generate forms in a convincing modern idiom. Colonial architecture in Korea aspired to the condition of modernity but executed it without any real subjectivity. Mostly reliant on eclectic styles imported from the West, colonial buildings never attempted to come to terms with the sociocultural...

Part II Searching for Identity in the Developmental Period

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pp. 49-65

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Chapter 4 Urban Expansion and the Construction Boom

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pp. 51-69

On August 15, 1945, the Japanese emperor announced on the radio the surrender of Japan and the end of the Pacific War. In Korea, this ushered in a total collapse of the discourse of the colonial period and a fundamental rupture with the colonial modernism then prevailing. But liberation from the Japanese empire did not spell the end of Korea’s misfortunes. In its aftermath, the Korean peninsula was divided into two occupation zones, which became...

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Chapter 5 New Urban Housing

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pp. 70-80

In the 1960s, it became clear that the dominant housing type of the colonial period, the urban hanok, would be incompatible with the urban development already underway in Korea. In response to the overcrowding of Korea’s large cities, new forms of housing that could be built to higher densities began to appear—apartment houses and multihousehold dwellings, as well as a new type of detached house known as jipjangsajip, or spec house. Building new housing...

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Chapter 6 The Quest for Architectural Identity

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pp. 81-96

With the division between North and South an inescapable reality in the 1960s, a competitive pursuit of national identity led to the formation of a unique cultural topography on the Korean peninsula. Architecture espoused regionalism, with talented architects looking to their own culture for the first time to find an identity predicated on a thorough rupture from the modernism of the colonial period. In their major works, these architects drew on classic examples...

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Chapter 7 The Semantics of Technology

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pp. 97-108

The impressive office buildings lined up along boulevards in the newly built areas of Korea stand as a testament to the technological achievements of the modern era. But in the early stages, Korean architects found it difficult to grasp the full significance of the technology they were using. There are several explanations for this. First, the term technology had been narrowly construed as a concept pertaining...

Part III From Modernization to Globalization

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pp. 109-125

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Chapter 8 Discovering Reality

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pp. 111-125

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, Korean society underwent a fundamental change. Politically, the end of the military dictatorship allowed democratic systems to take root, bringing to a close the developmental period that had been controlled by military regimes for close to thirty years. Instead of an export-oriented growth policy, economic priority was now given to a balanced distribution of economic gains. No longer could the demands of the middle class...

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Chapter 9 New Paradigms for Urban Design

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pp. 126-141

The arrival of the new millennium brought home the fact that architectural and urban discourse was now being shaped by two powerful forces: one was the globalization of the discourse, moving the consideration of design activities beyond the confines of national boundaries; the other was an interdisciplinary approach emphasizing the interdependence of architecture, landscape design, and urban design. Accordingly, definitions of architecture and of...

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Epilogue: A Correlative Architecture between the Void and the Solid

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pp. 142-144

This book has presented a comprehensive overview of architectural and urban development in Korea within the broad framework of modernization. A meaningful conclusion can only be drawn if we begin with an understanding of the modernization process. Korea’s modernization cannot be explained by any single widely accepted theory. It followed its own distinctive trajectory in several respects, leaving two daunting tasks to the observer...

Appendix: Profiles of Korean Architects and Planners

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pp. 145-152


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pp. 153-166


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pp. 167-184


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pp. 185-191

E-ISBN-13: 9780824839017
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824835859

Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Spatial Habitus: Making and Meaning in Asia's Architecture

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Subject Headings

  • Architecture -- Korea (South) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Urbanization -- Korea (South) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Architecture and society -- Korea (South).
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