Recently, the city of Seoul has proposed a 360-million-dollar project to restore the Han River, which would entail the removal of concrete embankments along the shoreline to restore the river’s native flora and fauna species and wetlands, protect endangered migrant birds, and preserve natural flow of the water. This project is a reminder of how the city of Seoul in the post-industrial age is addressing the environmental and ecological destruction that the Han River underwent in recent decades. As the economic development beginning in the 1960s was named after it as “the miracle on the Han River,” the Han River has been at the front and the center of the nation’s developmentalist fervor. This presentation therefore looks into the initial stage of the development of the Han River to examine the place of urban planning and development in the context of the nationalist project of economic development by Park Chung Hee. In particular, it will talk about the development of an island called Yeouido and discuss the development of the shoreline of the river as well as the eventual expansion of the city into the south of the river, Gangnam.
Se-Mi Oh is Assistant Professor of Modern Korean History in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the visual and sound cultures of Colonial Seoul of the 1920s and 1930s. Her book manuscript tentatively entitled Seoul Streets: Surface Matters, Speech Matters examines the relationship between language, text, and media in tracing the discursive formation of modernity and colonialism in Korea through urban space.