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Institutional Explanations of Shaping a Particular Housing Culture in South Korea: A Case Study of the Gangnam District in Seoul

Park, Jinhee / J (2013) Institutional Explanations of Shaping a Particular Housing Culture in South Korea: A Case Study of the Gangnam District in Seoul. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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High-rise urban housing has been one of the most contentious themes in academic and policy discourses regarding urban built environments, connoted in many western countries as ‘slums’ with social delinquency and dysfunctional family lives. This has often been contrasted with the ideal of the suburban house. Together these have framed a ‘deterministic dualism’ of built environments according to the physical and spatial features. Such extreme comparison has helped to reinforce social and spatial segregation, resulting in the deep stigmatisation of high-rise built environments. This has left little room for other possibilities, in particular in the context of recent issues of sustainable development, such as new urbanism, struggling to transform images and perspectives of high-rise city living. However, there is a contrasting reality in South Korea, where the same built environment involves exactly the opposite story of these predominant discourses, where fundamental changes in the country’s housing market have occurred in tandem with the rise of a so-called ‘apartment culture’. Urban high-rise living has come to be seen as representative of modern middle-class lifestyles in response to dramatic economic growth over the last half century, accompanying by the transformation of low-rise settlements into high-rise blocks in both urban and suburban areas. As a result, the mega-sized capital city, Seoul, embraces half of population within an extremely compact area, 10 % of the nation. This example of Korean high-rise living suggests a lack of deep understandings about built environments, in which the deterministic framework of the western-centric view cannot explain a different reality generated from the same built form. Instead, by focusing on cultural identity to shift away from deterministic analyses of built environments, this research aims to understand how a ‘housing culture’, as a form of ‘institutionalised built environment’, can arise and operate socially, culturally, economically and politically in a market-driven capitalist society. Seoul offers rich source of this exploration, especially in the case study district of Gangnam, where Korean apartment culture was literally born. Based on qualitative methodology with mainly semi-structured interviews, the research found that built forms are not entitled with innate entity, but socially constructed meanings. The analytical lens of housing culture enables this complex and dynamic construction of built environments to be captured. Given this potential of a new thinking, this thesis suggests some renewed ideas and perspectives, and the new way of framing problems beyond simple physical and spatial factors in understanding built environments.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: High-rise city living, Housing culture, Collective identity, Formal and informal institutions, built forms
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Urban Studies and Planning (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.577397
Depositing User: Jinhee / J Park
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2013 14:35
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 10:45
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/4107

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