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Jin Kim

PhD Work

Redevelopment of aged housing projects in Seoul: the housing design guide

This thesis argues for the need of a new housing redevelopment model that can address the problems of the current aged apartment redevelopment policy framework, namely the architecture quality of housing blocks built since the 1960s in Seoul. South Korea experienced rapid urbanisation and economic growth during the 1960s and 70s under the leadership of Park Chung-Hee. The urban population grew from 27.7 per cent in 1960 to 56.7 per cent in 1980, with the capital city Seoul itself housing 9.8 per cent of the whole population in 1960, which rose to 22.3 per cent in 1980. Economic growth in this period was dramatic, as GDP grew from $3.958 to $64.981 billion. While such growth brought prosperity and alleviated poverty in a short period of time, it created challenges in meeting a new housing demand.

The idea of developmental state was behind this growth in Korea, in which the government played the leading role in promoting industrialisation, pursuing a series of controls and policies to guide the direction and pace of economic development, which was implemented in the 1960s after Korean War. Housing projects in the context of a developmental state play an economic and welfare role, which drives industrial expansion that stimulates rapid economic growth and urban renewal. Due to rapid urbanisation and pressure to meet housing demand, the state was not able to control the quality of housing blocks that are capable of lasting for more than 40 years.

Strong alliances between leaders in the private and public sectors were formed and the state took on a leading role in the housing delivery, from construction of housing to provide subsidies for developer/contractor for their active involvement. This was greatly successful in providing a cast amount of 2,000,000 units (710,000 by the public and 1,432,000 by the private sectors) in four years from 1988 to 1991 within five new towns in the Seoul Metropolitan Area. This was only the beginning of a large-scale housing programme in Korea until the country experienced a financial crisis in 1997. Seoul developed only 30,000 housing units in 1997 but once recovered from the crisis, housing supply increased again from 2001 to the provision of between 40,000 and 130,000 units every year.

However, this focus of housing on economic growth, supply and promoting homeownership, not only created a lack of diversity and a problem of affordability, but also caused a qualitative problem. The architects' role in this was reduced to that of a technician, while contractors took control of the design and procurement driven by profit. Disregarding the qualitative housing problems, the central government is still in favour of housing provisions by the private sector while playing an executive role in housing provision through financial and legislation controls.

With limited land available in urban areas, the state started to approve housing redevelopment projects since the 1980s and substantially from the 2000s, permitting the demolition of housing blocks built in the 1960s and 70s and replacing them with high-rise housing. The motivation for these redevelopments is not only the problem of quality and structure. Some of the developments were right to be redeveloped as they were putting residence in danger. However, some of the redevelopment projects were forced by the residence as a means to increase the value of the property as they will be able to move back in with cheaper than market rate once completed. The social mentality of housing more as real estate asset than a place to live and financial system in favour of mortgage against properties in Korea permits large redevelopment programme. In this regime, the new housing is only expected to last 30–40 years, before it is demolished again and rebuilt.

Consequently, 80 per cent of housing is provided through the redevelopment programme in Seoul and there is no incentive nor the policy framework to control the quality of housing as a place to live in. Current housing guides focus on the facilities such as number of parking space, playground, nurseries, sports facilities required for housing developments and design of the communal area in respect of dimensions but not on the spatial quality nor the construction quality. 16.2 per cent of the population in Seoul are forced to move out because of the housing quality problem. This is the highest followed by the desire for a larger home (20.7 per cent) and housing tenure (17.0 per cent). There is no housing design guide nor policy in place to control the quality of housing and it is only viable when a housing design guide brings housing policy, procurement and design together as a regulatory instrument for policymakers, planners and architects.


  • PhD


    School of Architecture


    Architecture, 2019–

  • Degrees

  • MPhil Planning, Growth and Regeneration, University of Cambridge; Diploma, Architecture, Architectural Association
  • Awards

  • Architecture of the year, Gyeonggi Province; Architecture of the year, Siheung City