Letter from Mr. Carsten Haertl to the Korea Times

Datum: Sun, 19 Mar 2006 16:14:11 +0100 (CET)
Von: Carsten Haertl <carstenhaertl@yahoo.de>
Betreff: Destruction of Gahoe-Dong / Concrete Mania Korea
An: sahds@koreatimes.co.kr


Dear Mr. Sah and Journalists of Korean Times

Hello, I am a German manager, living in Seoul since 2003. My Korean wife and me both love traditional Korean arts, culture and history very much.

Several times I read articles in English language newspapers about the destruction of Kahoi-dong, the last Hanok district of Seoul. These reports refer to David Kilburns activities and homepage on that issue.

As a foreigner whose home country (Germany) lost so much of its traditional heritage during the 20th century - similar to Korea! - I cannot understand why the step-by-step destruction of Kahoi-Dong is tolerated by the Korean public. It is really a tragedy what happens there and elsewhere in Korea. It is strange enough that foreigners usually know much more about the Koreas traditional culture. But it is more a shame that foreigners have to stand up and try to preserve these treasures. My high respect for David Kilburn's initiative!!

I could add other examples in Seoul - like the "wild & strange" transformation of Hannam-Dong - our current home) and anywhere else in this country. Similar to Kahoi-dong, construction is tolerated in a ruthless and tasteless manner, disregarding neighbourhood's interests, disregarding the distinctive character of the district, or - at the countryside: disregading natural beauty and natural resources.

I wonder why even after the first article in this newspaper October 2005 and many months of Kilburns homepage, there is still something to fight for. In advanced countries the first article would have kicked-off a scandal, resulting in dismissal or even imprisonment of several key persons in Seoul City administration, and in high penalties for the speculators. Of course the "hardly-legal" buildings - to see on Kilburns homepage - would have been demolished and replaced by hanoks. All on account of the speculators. I really wonder where strict supervision of rules and public interests got lost in Korean administration. What is the job of district inspectors in Korea? What are they paid for? And who pays their superiors?

As long as is still regarded as a matter of course in Korea, that you can get everything for money, I am not optimistic for the appearance of Korean cities. A look at modern city planning in China or a walk through cities of advanced countries like Great Britain, Japan, etc. could start a helpful learning process. This should happen before it is too late. As we saw in the Cheong Gye Stream Project: Restoring the old treasures is always much more painful and and expensive than their quick demolition.

Short-term profit maximazition of a few wins against long-term benefit for the community. Unfortunately, in this area, South-Korea is by far an underdeveloped country. Not better than Nigeria or Indonesia.

Best Regards
Carsten Haertl

NOTE: My first contact with Mr. Haertl was when he e-mailed me out of the blue to express support after visiting this web site, reading some articles, and wandering around Gahoe-Dong to look at what was happening. David Kilburn

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