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Video of housing evictions for 1988 Seoul Olympics

The 720,000 people evicted from cheap housing for the 1988 Seoul Olympics seem long ago and far away. However the evictions are remembered for their scale and brutality.

The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions 2007 Report 'Fair Play for Housing Rights' says;

"The practice of forced evictions was especially widespread and energetic in Seoul during the Olympic Games preparations, resulting in arrests and deaths. It is clear from the historical record that the clashes between groups sponsoring eviction and communities resisting eviction reached a high point in terms of visibility, intensity of conflicts, and length of conflicts in the pre-Games preparation period. By the time that the Mokdong and Sanggyedong redevelopment areas were completed, several years after the 1988 Olympic Games, a significant percentage of the total number of small houses in Seoul was gone.

Sanggyedong is the neighbourhood most directly associated with the dark side of Olympic Games preparations. Not only were evictees displaced from their homes as a result of the city’s beautification campaign, accelerated by the Olympic deadline, but they then encountered further problems due to their relocation to Puchôn, because public officials wanted to ensure that the Olympic torch route was free of evidence of the resettlement. The result was a public relations disaster for the Government."

Kim Dong-won had recently finished graduate school in Mass Communication from Sogang University. He says;

"It happened on October 6th, 1986. The reason I remember the date is because I had a date on that day. I remember that I had to hurry to Sanggye-dong at the urgent request of Father Jeong Il-wu. I thought I would only have to film for a day, I had no idea that I’d be there for the next 3 years. I filmed 50, 2 hour long tapes, and looking at the dates labeled on them brings back memories of those times.

Father Jeong asked me to make a film of the government demolishing houses that still had household goods in them as evidence, so they could later sue the government for invasion of private property and damage. I thought of it lightly when I first went. I didn’t even know where Sanggye-dong was and I knew nothing about its development. I went there and did some filming and a couple of interviews. On returning back home that evening, I checked my tapes to find that although I had used a mike for the interviews, for some reason, I didn’t get any audio. That’s why I returned the next day. I was only going to tape the interviews again but ended up taping the demolition.

I had just finished graduate school and although I didn’t demonstrate against the government, I was familiar with their outrages which made me feel a deep sense of rage. But none of this made me think deeply about the structural paradoxes of society. At the scene, I saw mothers with babies, lying underneath demolition cranes and goons hired by the government carrying those women off, putting them into chicken coops on the back of a truck. Seeing the dust rise from the street, hearing the growl of the demolition crane and the desperate screams of women all made me realize that this was the kind of outrage committed by the government that I had only previously heard about."

More at: Kim Dong-won

His video is titled Sanggye-dong Olympic

The downsides are:

  • The image quality online is poor
  • Its in Korean

The upside is it illustrates the grim story of how these poor people were shoved around. Before viewing it helps to read the short account of the story of the the Sanggye-dong evictions attached below.

Sanggye-dong evictions.pdf139.41 KB

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