Exploring Seoul can at times be quite difficult. With labyrinths of roads and buildings it is quite easy to find yourself lost. This is exactly what happened while searching for graffiti art in the Seoul district of Buk Ahyeon (북아현동). Our team was following leads for the Seoul Urban Art Project (SUP) when we took an unexpected turn and stumbled upon this site. A dilapidated neighborhood that underwent mass eviction in Seoul, Buk Ahyeon took us back to an era of rapid industrialization and urbanization that took place in Korea.

As we first explored the outer edges of this district we were able to find some pieces of graffiti created by the local Chugye International School of Arts, but as we explored deeper into the district we discovered abandoned buildings, broken down ceilings and walls, and remnants of an inhabited past. I must admit trekking through these molded and rotting building was perturbing, with no signs of life beyond a few cat tracks embedded in the snow. Many of the homes appeared to have been vacated in a hurry, with furniture, luggage, and chinaware left abandoned. Navigating through parts of this area was quite dangerous as the only possible way to reach them was by climbing steep stairways covered in shattered glass, debris, and icy snow.

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This particular area of Buk Ahyeon has been undergoing redevelopment over the past decade, and recently many residents have been evicted in order to make way for brand new upscale apartment complexes. At the time of our visit they had already demolished parts of the town and were working on the first phase of redevelopment.

As Korea continues to polish its world image, areas such as Buk Ahyeon become less obvious to the average traveler, when in fact these ghettos of Seoul reveal the struggle and dedication of a country moving forward. In addition, there’s limited information available regarding the politics behind what exactly happened here, as government officials want to conceal the impalpable signs of gentrification this district is undergoing.

Check out the images below and tell us what you think. Also, if you know of any other ‘abandoned’ places let us know!

Photo cred: D Lee