Hanoks are one-story buildings designed in a cube, the shape of which depending on their geographical location in the country. While they are usually constructed using wooden beams and blocks of stone, other traditional building materials include straw, mulberry paper, and clay. They are truly beautiful and are undoubtedly a symbol of Korea. Though they can still be found all around the country, they are sometimes difficult to find in cities like Seoul, where re-development is rampant and the ill-effects of the Japanese attempt to wipe out Korean culture are evident. Back in the late 1970s, the Seoul government designated areas that had a particularly high concentration of these homes as cultural assets as to preserve them. The Gahoe-dong area in Jongro- also known as Bukchon Hanok Village- was one of the areas protected, as it contains over 500 hundred traditional hanoks, most of which belonged to yanban, or upper-class families.
Just twenty years later, in 2000, only 2 streets in the Bukchon district remained as hanok-only areas. Again, the government issued grants and low-interest loans to both protect and conserve the areas as to refurbish the neighborhood to resemble its original self. Plans included the installation of better lighting, sprucing up the roads, and creating a tourist-friendly atmosphere by posting aesthetic maps and signs. Since then, unfortunately, many people have taken advantage of the said perks and government funding. In one case, a party used a loan to demolish a hanok and replace it with a modern two story building. This party was then issued a a general business license by government officials to use as he or she wished. It makes one wonder which side the Seoul administration is on, as they aren’t actually enforcing their own policies. I’m sure corruption and politics are involved, as they usually are in this sort of situation, but I don’t know enough to remark on that subject.
Everything about Samcheongdong oozes charm; the simplest of objects come across as artsy.
For more information about preservation efforts as well as news regarding hanok conservation, please visit this website: http://www.kahoidong.com/index_e.shtm .