Night One: City Center Seoul

Finally I arrived. Jumped off from Hongik University station and randomly wander around with my long time friend who have been staying in Seoul for many years now. He originally came from Tokyo but decided to migrate for some reason.

The sun was about to set. It was cloudy and humid. “Are you hungry?” he asked. I gestured that I was full. “Let me show you around.” We end up eating a live octopus’s tentacles on the side street after visiting the protest site of family members of more than a hundred high school students who passed away from a sea tragedy a couple of years ago. “We don’t understand why the Korean government doesn’t allow us to conduct an independent investigation of the tragedy,” said the man in his sixties who explained to me in clear english why they continue to occupy a public place adjacent to the government building and above the central metro. “We ask why?” he firmly expressed his frustration in agitated voice after telling us the irresponsibility of the government in taking the case of the said tragedy.

The city looks vibrant. People are proactive but despite all this there’s oppression everywhere. Somewhere in the Anhyeon Pochan district street vendors were evicted by the police two weeks ago. Activists say that the district has a growing number of new apartments and condominiums prompting the city authorities to evict small scale shops installed along the streets.

To conclude my first night in Seoul we paid a solidarity with the evicted small shop owners who were protesting at the eviction site that is now an empty lot with giant pots of domesticated bush plants. The protest was supported by a network of independent musicians who sang along with the evicted vendors. “So, why is it again are you visiting Gwanju Bienalle?” asked my friend who is now a little sleepy. I was not able to answer quickly but I told him I am glad to see him again and very thankful for introducing me the city in a different way. It was a long night I ended up sleeping in a occupied house that the activists temporarily stay.


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