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  • 1F/B1
  • Kim Jung-hyuk (bio)
    Translated by Caleb Young Woo Park (bio)

The Building Managers Union of Neotown, though it officially disbanded in August of 2007, continues its existence as an underground organization today. Even before its official disbandment, the Union was an underground organization of sorts—because building managers always lived in basements—but now it has hidden itself in the perfect darkness of the underground, the underground of the underground, or the deepest bottom of the underground. It would be impossible to find in the entire history of the world an organization that fits the label of “underground organization” more perfectly. The building managers of Neotown call themselves the “SM’s,” a title they only started to use after they went through that unforgettable incident—or the “Battle in the Dark” as it is officially called among them—in April, 2007. SM is short for “slash manager.”

Every city has a building managers’ association, but the Building Managers Union of Neotown was a little different in nature. In Neotown, Kopyŏng City, buildings of ten stories or fewer, mostly mixed-use residential buildings, outnumbered high-rises, and they were packed densely into one small district. Such local particularities played a role in how the Union came to be. A problem that occurred in one building spread instantly to the next like a computer virus. If one building had a high-pressure problem [End Page 111] in the air-conditioning plant room, another building caught the same problem before the day was over. This was because all the buildings were constructed at around the same time and had more or less the same layout. The Building Managers Union was formed not to protect the interests of the residents, but to protect the building managers from the residents’ inquiries or organized protests—just like all other organizations that have ever been formed since the creation of Earth.

The founder of the Building Managers Union was Ku Hyŏnsŏng. He was the kind of person who would have been better suited to start a “National Association of the Paranoid,” but he didn’t think of himself as such—just like all other paranoid people who have existed since the creation of Earth. He had a background in architecture, enjoyed meddling in all kinds of affairs, and was a member of Neotown’s organizing committee and sponsor for the Architects Association of Kopyŏng City. The people of the city wondered how on earth Ku came into his wealth.

“Ku Hyŏnsŏng’s favorite phrase has always been ‘defect repair.’ He said it’s a beautiful phrase. And he’d add, ‘It’s impossible to build perfect buildings. Only defect repair makes perfect buildings.’ Do you see how much of a perfectionist he is?” Such was the opinion of Yi Munjo, who was known for being close to Ku. Yi co-founded the Building Managers Union with Ku and officially was the “second-in-command.” But the gap between him and the “first-in-command” was so great that the title seemed absurd. After all, Ku was a wealthy owner of seven buildings in Kopyŏng City, while Yi was a technician, just an old hand at building management. At best, Yi was more like Ku’s lieutenant, and Ku left him to take care of most of the dirty work. For Ku, building management was something like a hobby. Even with so much wealth in his possession, Ku lived in the basement control station of his building and said he didn’t know anything more enjoyable than building management. Neotown was completed in 1991, and the Union was established in the following year. From 1992 to 2007, [End Page 112] for fifteen long years, Ku and Yi had successfully led the Building Managers Union of Kopyŏng City. No one challenged their absolute rule or objected to their decisions. That was the case until April 2007, when the “Battle in the Dark” took place.

Many had bad things to say about Ku Hyŏnsŏng, but no one disputed the fact that he contributed immensely to the development of Neotown. Ku worked hard to make Neotown a world...


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pp. 111-134
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