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Urban Regeneration & Remembering the Korean War

Urban regeneration in northern Gyeonggi began with the reconstruction after the Korean War. Gyeonggi Province plans on recording and reviving the culture and history such as Teokgeori Village.

Gyeonggi-do urban regeneration project
War has been an inevitable menace throughout history. Even to this day, war and unrest are affecting the lives of many around the world. Kenneth Neal Waltz, a prominent American political scientist who fought in World War II and the Korean War, wrote in his book ‘Man, the State, and War’ about the causes of war on different levels, namely individual, state, and system.

Whether it’s World War I, World War II, the Korean War, or any other war, wars leave their imprints on a city’s landscape; at times an imprint more profound than the generations of people who lived in these urban spaces.

War, Losses & Change

It is estimated that the casualties of World War I add up tomore than 37 million. Estimates vary for the total casualties of World War II, but some suggest numbers as high as 60 million. The loss of lives, as well as mental and physical injuries, might be the most traumatic costs of war. But there is also the loss of property as well as cultural heritage, and countries are left forever changed.

However, there are less traumatic changes too; as time passes, history melts into culture and out sprout new cultural artifacts when people begin to rebuild their lives. Technological and medical innovations, reshapingwomen’s roles in society, and the rise of the luxury fashion brand Burberry(thanks to the iconic trench coats) are part of the heritage of World War I as well.

Korean War & US Military Bases

The American military was deployed to the southern half of the Korean Peninsula after World War II to help liberate Korea from Japanesecolonial rule. North of the Peninsula, there were communist forces who had declared war on Japan. In the following years, two different governments formed on the peninsula, which eventually led to the Korean War. During the three years of conflict, the number of American military personnel in Korea increased and have remained in South Korea ever since.


Camp Hovey is a United States military base in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province
ⓒKriegschwein

The presence of the American military in Korea has made its imprint on the South Korean culture, life, and urban spaces, be it on the food (the infamous budae jjigae, which translates as ‘military base stew’) to the faces of the towns and villages surrounding the American military bases which have undergone reshaping and relocations.

Teokgeori Village: the Image of a Military Base Town

Located between Camp Hovey and a power plant, TeokgeoriVillage is a forgotten region that rose and fell with the military activitiesin Camp Hovey, which was established in 1954. Teokgeori Village soon turned to a community whose livelihood depended on Camp Hovey; almost every business served the needs of the American military (laundry shops, clubs, restaurants, etc.).


Military Base Gyeonggi-do Camp Hovey
Business in Teokgeori Village depended on Camp Hovey 


While this coexistence led to some growth, it was not an easy one. As with many other military base villages and towns, accidents and clashes between American military personnel and the locals were numerous.

As time passed Camp Hovey was connected to Camp Casey, limiting the number of military personnel exiting to Teokgeori Village; in 2004, the dispatch of US forces to Iraq drastically reduced the number of Camp Hovey residents and the camp was returned to South Korea in 2019. The military base town faced decline and shrank.


Military Base Gyeonggi-do Teokgeori Village
Many shops operated for American soldiers from Camp Hovey

Gyeonggi-do, which has a high concentration of military camps, wishes to revive military base villages and towns and help the remaining residents through the Gyeonggi-do Urban Regeneration Project. Much like the revival of Coin Street in London, Kurokabe Square in Nagahama, and GamcheonCulture Village in Busan, regeneration will rely on the participation of local residents and focus on cultural revival and memories.

Gyeonggi-do Urban Regeneration Project

Under President Moon’s Urban Regeneration New Deal plan, Gyeonggi-do is pursuing the formation of cities where the local communities carry the power to innovate and upgrade their living spaces.

The project, which is aimed at combating the decline of cities and loss of the young inhabitants, will tap into the local historical and cultural resources, allowing the locals to create new jobs and improve their residential areas.

Gyeonggi-do has designated 37 areas for urban regeneration, spread between northern and southern regions of the province.

North Gyeonggi Urban Regeneration & Cultural Revival

Teokgeori Village, in Dongducheon, is one of the locations that was designated for regeneration in 2017. Basing the foundation of the revival upon its history, the Teokgeori Village is regaining vitality. By implementing policies for the residents to take charge, the village opened itsvery own museum in 2019, serving as an art and culture center. The building itself encapsulates the village’s essence in its history; it served as a bar and later a club-type entertainment facility for the American military before being turned into a cafe and eventually being abandoned.

Gyeonggi-do URP urban regeneration project
Eco Museum in Teokgeori Village, Dongducheon

Similarly, the province is planning on recording and reviving the history and culture in different locations in northern Gyeonggi. The Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation is hoping to discover and record the regional identity of northern areas of Gyeonggi-do, some of which are shaped by war and its aftermath.

The ‘Northern Gyeonggi Villages Archive’ is the name of the project created to survey, record, and create archives based on the identity, culture, and uniquely precious essence of these villages. By recognizing their history and ways of life, we can earmark new unique cultural heritages. Sinmangri (Yeoncheon), Teokgeori (Dongducheon), and Seonyuri (Paju) were the pilot sites selected for the program in 2017.

At the same time, to improve the lives of northern Gyeonggi citizens, the ‘Village Regeneration Project’ was launched. Through this project, the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation will support cultural projects in decaying and declining regions. The foundation aims to support locals in creating strategies and regional specialty areas that suit regional identity and help create opportunities based on the needs of the residents.

In northern Gyeonggi, the effects of war, the extensive military presence, and the shadow of the DMZ have influenced the lives of the locals and shaped urban and even rural spaces. While the local residents have faced difficulties and losses throughout the years, the forces acting in the areas have also created a unique history and identity in the region.

By recognizing the history and the culture of regions such as Teokgeori Village, we hope to help the residents regain their voice and become visible. Cultural revival can also serve as a strategy for urban regeneration, as it can place these previously ignored, or even avoided regions, on the map for South Koreans and foreign visitors.

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Gyeonggido-Korea: Urban Regeneration & Remembering the Korean War
Urban Regeneration & Remembering the Korean War
Urban regeneration in northern Gyeonggi began with the reconstruction after the Korean War. Gyeonggi Province plans on recording and reviving the culture and history such as Teokgeori Village.
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