Life ecology in Korean cities. How does it feel?

Ecological characteristics of cities in Korea

The following two ecological characteristics of cities in Korea in the traditional era can be cited. First, the theory of fengshui geography played a large role in the formation process of the city. In other words, it seems that the feng shui geography has a greater influence than any other country on the formation process of the urban internal structure such as the selection of the location of the city and the selection of a residential area. 

As an example, the selection of a capital city in Hanyang is an example, and it can be seen that the location of the palace, the selection of the fortress wall, the four gates, the road, and the residential area were all woven within the basic principles of the Pengshui Geographical Rule.

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Second, the political and administrative factors had a decisive influence on the formation of the city’s internal structure rather than the natural environment and religious factors. That is, the area where the administrative agency is located became the center of the city, and various functional social areas were formed around the area. A residential area for officials was formed around the administration’s office building, followed by a market and a shopping mall for the supply of daily necessities for the officials, a craft area, and a residential area for Gongno.

The formation of such an internal structure can be found in China and Japan as well, indicating that it is a unique form of Confucian culture. However, the sudden urbanization process unfolded after liberation made the traditional ecological structure of Korean cities almost impossible to find, and formed a new ecological structure. Since the liberation of Korea, cities have been in the stage of concentration and centralization of the population, and even in the early 1980s, there is no trend of decentralization. However, the wider national level and the structure of a community centered on a metropolitan area tend to be quite systematized.

In December 1983, among the government’s revised 5th Five-Year Plan, the National Territory Development Plan seeed to develop regional center cities as well as the distribution of population and functions in the metropolitan area. It can be seen that the plan was to establish a regional system by fostering Daegu, Daejeon, and Gwangju as growth hub cities and fostering industries in other local cities, while at the same time paying attention to systematizing the entire country.

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It can be seen that the basic motivation of such a plan was an effort to artificially disperse the excessive population concentration and centralization of functions in large cities. However, it would be difficult for the population to disperse locality unless local distribution of politics, education, and culture is prioritized. In recent years, with the rapid urbanization of cities Korea, rapid functional division and spatial expansion or rearrangement of urban communities have become inevitable. Compared with cities in Europe and America, the ecological transition process of these cities is summarized as follows.

① Because cities in Korea are still in the process of centralization and centralization in the ecological process, all functions of the city are concentrated in the central area. At the national level, as can be found in most developing countries, the phenomenon of urban primacy is concentrating all functions of the country in Seoul, and thus the population tends to concentrate in Seoul as well. have.

② Since the 1970s, many new cities such as Changwon, Gumi, Pohang, and Ulsan have been constructed as a result of policy. This phenomenon shows that today’s urban ecological structure is increasingly determined by artificial urban policies and artificial structures. However, if the artificial environmental composition is not based on the basic principles of the natural order, it will eventually lead to many problems in the basic integration of the community.

③ In the case of Gumi, industrial areas are mainly completely separated in specific areas outside, but in Korea, many small factories are still scattered in residential areas and commercial areas. This phenomenon is because the functional differentiation of cities has not matured.

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④ It is common to group commercial areas in the form of large-scale shopping centers in the center of residential areas or to take the form of department stores in the business-centered areas. It is taking the form of a market by region in the form of a 5-day market. Such forms can be found in the Dongdaemun market in Seoul and the international market in Busan.

Another characteristic of the division of commercial areas in Korea is that, as in the case of Gumi, the commercial areas are separated from housing and service areas, but instead of the concentration of population and functions in the center of the city and the lack of development of transportation means, the phenomenon of regional division by product item within the shopping district. This is what is happening. 

For example, in the case of Seoul, there are regional differentiation phenomena such as Insa-dong for antiques, Cheonggyecheon for books, Dongdaemun and Namdaemun markets for Pomok, and Jongno for herbal medicine.

⑤ Service companies such as hotels and restaurants are mainly located in the center of the city or near the floating area and the access road of the highway, but in the case of cities in Korea, hotels are mainly scattered around the city center, and small inns and restaurants are concentrated around the railway station. You can see what is happening. In general, interactions between cities in Korea are not as frequent as cities in Gumi, and the differentiated phenomenon of service areas is not clear except for Seoul, Busan, Daegu, and Daejeon.

⑥ Looking at the characteristics of residential areas in cities in Korea, there are remarkable differences from urban ecology. The phenomenon of separation of residential areas is also evident, because members of urban communities have diverse cultural backgrounds, and also because urban functions are extremely differentiated. The phenomenon of urban concentration among middle-class residents in Korea seems to be due to the limitations of the distribution of private vehicles and the concentration of education and culture.


⑦ Slums appear in the center of the city due to their economic status and racial background, and they are known to form their own unique culture of poverty in the slum areas. 

⑧ It is overcrowding in residential areas and the emergence of large-scale apartment areas. In all cities, functions are centralized, so the land price in the central area is extremely high compared to other areas, and the population is concentrated. Therefore, in most residential areas, only houses without a garden are concentrated, and many households are occupied in the densely populated houses, resulting in overcrowding of residential life.

Urban lifestyle

The social relations of urban residents are qualitatively different from the social relations of rural residents. A city can be seen as a relatively large and densely populated place where heterogeneous individuals live. The anonymity of individuals in urban life shows the characteristics of social relations among urban people. You have a lot of contact with people, but you rarely have a deep relationship.

In other words, urban individuals maintain close personal relationships like those seen in rural areas with only a few people, and most of the relationships are formed by profit and convenience. Individuals are less restrained from people connected by blood or delay, and relationships are established by individual’s rational judgment and calculation. As urbanization was achieved through gradual change in the Western region, the sense of community as a citizen of the city was a very important requirement, but the citizens of South Korea are not very strong in the sense of community as citizens.

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Currently, the number of urban residents born in rural areas is overwhelmingly greater than the population born in cities. Therefore, the consciousness of the city dwellers has not changed very much from the traditional rural values. On the one hand, the conservatism of these values ​​also plays a useful function in adjusting to the new environment for farmers who have migrated to cities in the recent rapid urbanization process.  However, since the change in the industrial structure and lifestyle in the city is more rapid than the change in values, there are many classes who feel a sense of loss in the city.

First of all, urban residents frequently move from place to place. This may be achieved by occupational needs or by frequent social and economic movements within the city. The major causes are the urban area and real estate price fluctuations that are expanding due to rapid urban expansion. In addition, for the convenience of children’s education, they move for better transportation points. Because of these frequent changes of residence, it is difficult to maintain sustained relationships based on the region. Neighborhood relations are established as relationships between people who go through for a while, and it is also possible to stay without greetings, especially in apartment complexes where population mobility is severe. Nominal neighboring relations are maintained through administratively encouraged neighborhood meetings, but secondary relations are generally more dominant in urban situations. 

In other words, physical contact is made with many people, but close social contact is rare.Therefore, most social relations are temporary and only take place at the superficial level. Urban residents tend to feel alienated from these social relations and show a strong attachment to their hometown. In the city, work and home are completely separated. In the workplace, they carry out the role of specialized professionals and craftsmen, and they lead a completely different type of life apart from their duties. Work and entertainment are much more separate than in rural areas. Therefore, the importance of rest and entertainment is great. In accordance with the needs of such urban people, entertainment institutions and entertainment establishments are prospering. After-job entertainment is performed on an individual basis due to the disparity between home and work, and as in the case of advanced countries, there are not many entertainment or breaks in the family unit. 

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However, in the younger generation, there is an increasing tendency to take family breaks. Most of the urban families are in the form of nuclear families, which are gradually increasing due to the individualistic tendencies of urban residents and the living environment and workplace relations. The number of children is much smaller than that of rural areas, so it is a small family. Thanks to this reduction in the size of the family, rapid social and spatial movement of city dwellers has become possible. In other words, individuals and families can quickly move to the most economically beneficial places in each domain. In addition to selfish pursuit of selfishness, distrust or indifference toward others often appears in urban relationships. Interpersonal relationships are established according to stereotypes in order to agilely adapt to the heterogeneity of various individuals, and it is not easy to communicate with strangers around them. 

Therefore, although individuality is high in cities, it has not been evaluated as an individual. Individuals are of importance only as a categorized majority. Thus, individuals engage with different groups according to their interests and interests in order to satisfy their needs. Since these interest groups are organized for specific purposes, it is difficult to establish a holistic relationship as seen in rural areas.

In many cases, members are formed according to conditions that appear on the surface, showing a layered cross section. Examples of such groups include groups of hobbyists such as mountain climbing and fishing, charities, volunteer groups, political parties, and consumer groups. Interest groups that support the participating functional groups can also be derived, depending on the individual’s needs. This may include a social gathering between parents and a fellowship between housewives of the same age. They are partially supplementing the sense of fellowship among the weakened city dwellers. In addition, a group for fellowship between relatives, alumni associations for schools, and Hwasuhoe, a group of fellowship groups, are very active in urban areas. This can be seen as an attempt to restore the primary social relations that city dwellers have lost. However, even in these gatherings, city dwellers often use these gatherings for their socio-economic success because they are not completely liberated from individual economic interests. Therefore, even in such gatherings, the selfishness of city dwellers is at work, showing off and calculating each person’s position. It is not easy to escape from urban heterogeneity and maintain a personal and personal relationship. Because the evaluation of others is instantaneous and based on superficial standards, urban residents are more sensitive to external conditions than those in rural areas.

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Visual goods and art are developed in urban areas, and there is a strong tendency to tailor themselves to the majority. This comes from an attempt to relieve anxiety in the population concentration. Therefore, the trend of the majority is formed, promoted, and spread by mass media, and mass media such as newspapers, radios, and televisions play a very important role in urban culture. Consumption promotion through advertisement through mass media and instantaneous and enjoyable cultural dissemination are carried out, and modern city dwellers, who rarely interact with other people, are exposed to the flood of information that comes through mass media. The lifestyle introduced in the mass media has a great influence on the city people without knowing it, and the city takes on a popular social character. Standardized consumption patterns contribute to the generalization and popularization of urban people along with the distribution of mass-produced products. Moreover, the information center of all mass media is concentrated in Seoul, and the culture of Seoul is having an overwhelming influence on other urban and rural areas. With the development of communication facilities, it is the city, especially Seoul, that Western civilization is constantly being introduced.

Currently, in Seoul, there is a group living in line with the globalist trend by accepting the latest trends and lifestyles of the West, and it has buildings and commercial and business districts that are no different compared to any other major city in the world. However, there are also areas within the same city that have the most traditional lifestyle.The main characteristic of Korea’s urbanity is that just as there is a dual structure in the economy, two completely different ways coexist in the culture. Houses, apartments, and supermarkets equipped with the latest facilities are mixed with traditional markets, houses, and street shops. While there are classes with Western ideologies and values, migrants who have recently migrated from rural areas maintain relatively traditional values. Not only that, along with the bureaucratization and rationalization of large-scale corporations and administrations, the authoritarian system that can be combined with bureaucracy among traditional values ​​is still functioning. This can be attributed to the rapid pace of urbanization and the excessively centralized growth of urbanization.

This cultural duality of large cities can be seen as causing confusion and conflict of values ​​for individuals. Rather than having a responsible social consciousness or values, modern urban residents are more likely to become extremely selfish, and in particular, attempts to escape from the sense of alienation that can be caused when accepting new urban values ​​have made some of the pathology in cities .

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