Magazine article New Internationalist

Pig Village and the Slaughter House: The Slums of Seoul, South Korea, Are Hard to Find While in Bangkok, Thailand, They're Hard to Miss, but the Slum-Dwellers of Both Have Plenty in Common

Magazine article New Internationalist

Pig Village and the Slaughter House: The Slums of Seoul, South Korea, Are Hard to Find While in Bangkok, Thailand, They're Hard to Miss, but the Slum-Dwellers of Both Have Plenty in Common

Article excerpt

THE slums of Seoul are, by and large, hidden affairs. This city of over ten million has the appearance of a slightly threadbare metropolis of the industrial world. 'Pig Village' is on the eastern outskirts of the city. Corrugated shacks jammed between a high - rise development and an expressway are home to about 3,500 people. Yet you can walk through them in just 10 minutes.

It is always an education to meet the people who live in Third World slums. The way the Western press 'massifies' such people as an undifferentiated hoard of victims leads one to forget the obvious -- they are people with hopes and dreams, good days and bad days, just like the rest of us.

Mrs Oh moved here 12 years ago, just when Pig Village was making the transition from livestock storage to human habitation. She says in the first couple of years she thought the constant smell of the animals in her nostrils would drive her mad. The smell was washed away by a flood -- 'the only time I have ever been glad for a flood'. Mr Lee has lived for 10 years in Pig Village and says he has never locked his door.

They both tell the story of a 12 - year - old boy temporarily housed here while his family waited for reassignment to a high - rise. Once the move had been made he kept coming back to Pig Village each day after school. When asked which place he preferred his answer was philosophical: 'Housing better there -- living better here'.

Both Mrs Oh and Mr Lee agree that this community of narrow passages and cramped, poorly - lit rooms has a strong collective sense of itself. Some of the small living spaces are home to as many as five or six people. Most are immaculately clean. Heating (Korea has very harsh winters) is through hot - water pipes that run under the floor. This is so effective that as we talked I had to keep shifting my seat as the floor became uncomfortably hot under me. Electricity and clean water supplies are erratic.

Both of them also feel that the sense of community spirit or Chong -- a Korean word meaning 'warmth for one another' -- has dissipated since 1987, the year the Olympics came to Seoul. House prices in the area have shot up sevenfold since then. Now rents are going up, people are being divided into 'legals' and 'illegals' (only 15 per cent are said to be 'legal') by a government which is dividing the community against itself. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.