Demands of Yongsan Evictees to the Seoul Metropolitan Government

 

1. Seoul Metropolitan Government’s responsibility regarding the Yongsan Massacre

The Seoul Metropolitan Government is primarily responsible of the Yongsan Massacre, in which six people (5 evictees and 1 police officer) were burnt to death during police operation.

First of all, the Yongsan Massacre is the result of Seoul’s attempts to speed through its sumptuous and large-scale re-development project in Yongsan. Yongsan has been designated by Seoul to be developed into a ‘new downtown’ as an international business district. During the last thirty years, Seoul had implemented huge development projects amounting to twice the size of Seoul, and particularly during the last few years, development projects received a boost under the name of building ‘New Towns’ and ‘re-development’. Seoul has now become one big construction ground, where the poor have nowhere to go. The Yongsan Massacre was the result of these mass development projects.

Secondly, the re-development association (association of new land owners) mobilized thugs employed by building demolition companies, who had constantly threatened the tenants for months. The lodgers had suffered from and complained about the constant threats and violence, and were in danger of being evicted without any alternative settlement measure. However, the Yongsan District Office and Seoul government, which have reconstruction permit and licensing authority as well as supervision obligations, ignored the lodgers, saying the problem should be solved by ‘related parties’ alone, pushing the crisis to the extremes.

Even after the deaths of the evictees, the local government still did not respond. When the evictees requested the re-development project to be stopped, Seoul’s deputy mayor replied, “Time is money. We can no longer delay demolition of the area.” His words spoke for the interests of large construction companies, bringing out the cruelty of those greedy for profit.

 

2. Problems of Seoul’s ‘solutions’

On 1st July, Seoul announced that public entities will now lead all re-development and reconstruction efforts, which until now had been led by private corporations.

It is deplorable that Seoul had merely come up with such measure without any mention of the Yongsan Massacre, even though six months have passed since the incident. Seoul still refuses to give its position on the Yongsan Massacre. Under these circumstances, one can only doubt the sincerity of this new ‘policy’.

The fundamental problem with Seoul’s new re-housing policy is that it does not include any measures regarding re-settlement of original inhabitants, and in particular, there is no mention of any guarantee of housing for the tenants, who account for 70% of the dwellers in the Yongsan Re-development District #4, where the massacre took place. The plan uses the term ‘public management’, however, it is void of genuinely reformative measures such as construction of public housing, support for re-settlement of original inhabitants, support for tenants etc..

Furthermore, on 10th June, Seoul’s advisory council proposed various housing measures such as expansion of cheaper housing and more support for housing for the poor, however, the city government did not include these proposals in its final plan. Seoul did mention that it will provide procedures to control the demand and supply in the re-development areas, however, this measure will do nothing to tackle the real estate bubble and ensure cheaper housing.  

Seoul had also retrogressively revised other related laws in short, Seoul housing and construction policies do nothing to guarantee housing rights of tenants. Rather, it is exacerbating the disadvantage of tenants in the re-development zones.

3. Demands to the Seoul government

The evictees who were killed, were not protesting simply for more monetary compensation. They were making very basic, justifiable and yet desperate demands that tenant shop-owners be provided with temporary shops and that they be allowed to re-settle after the re-development, so that they can continue to make their living. Their demands were for their basic survival.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government must publicly state its will to resolve the Yongsan Massacre, and the mayor must make a sincere apology for the deaths.

An audit should be implemented into the re-development association of Yongsan District #4 as well as into the Yongsan District Office, where there are suspicions of corruption and collusion.

Seoul should proactively come up with housing and livelihood measures, including temporary shops so that evicted shop owners can resume their livelihood.

The city government must also come up with ways to compensate and make reparations to the family members of those who were sacrificed and injured.

 

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