Monday, February 9, 2009

Los Angeles Times on the tribulations of urban redevelopment in South Korea

The Los Angeles Times today has an interesting article on the "aggressive government policies" that are used to help developers kick out renters and shopkeepers in older neighborhoods so they can be razed and replaced by shiny, new, and expensive high-rises. 

A snippet:
In Seoul, where developable land is at a premium, activists have demanded the resignations of President Lee Myung-bak and Kim Seok-ki, the police chief who ordered the deadly crackdown.

Critics accuse the government of allowing business interests to force the poor from their homes and shops, often without adequate compensation, as a way to kick-start the nation's ailing economy.

"They're focusing on profits and just casting these people aside," said Kim Nam-geun, a civil rights activist. "It's a push for development at any cost."

Nationwide, there are 424 cases in which evictees are battling property owners and developers for better compensation.

Most redevelopment projects here are led by private developers and cooperatives of landlords seeking a quick profit with an aggressive schedule of demolition that does not often allow for public discourse, housing advocates say.

And although some of the evictees have an option to move into the redeveloped projects, many are precluded by the high rents in the new buildings. So many opt for a payout.
As a "landlord" myself, I understand the desire to make some coin off of one's redeveloped property, but I also remember the stress of having an forced move hanging over one's head all the time, which has made me try to be a gentle landlord while, both when I first purchased my apartment and five-year residents were still there and wanted to stay indefinitely, and now when I'm outside the country and renting my place out again. 

I at least had the means to go find something else that was decent, but my heart goes out to these people who have lived in the same place for years and years and really can't afford anything else. 

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