When people argue about high density urban landscapes, they generally look to Asia, where population density is staggering by western standards. Where a Canadian might consider 1000 people per square kilometer crowded, in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, or South Korea, 100 apartment towers per square kilometer is more like it.
I’m writing from Ulsan, a little known, less talked about city in South Korea. Located 56 kilometers north of Busan, but standing alone as almost an urban island. It is a city undergoing massive construction and reconstruction, where new satellites seem to pop up over night, where apartment buildings truly grow like weeds. Over the course of my next few posts I’m going to try and describe, both in words and pictures, the development of a country which has taken place in half a life time. Known locally as “the miracle on the Han river”, Korea has grown from the ruins of civil war to a prosperous, if not somewhat mysterious global power.
If the American Dream ™ is a family of 2.1 kids, 2.1 volvos and 2.1 golden retrievers living together in a split level house with a white picket fence, then the Korea Dream ™ is to live in the newest, biggest, most expensive apartment tower in the city, with 1.2 kids, 2.1 Hyundais, and 1.2 shitzus. Luxury apartment towers are springing up in downtown cores across the nation. In my city alone there are 18 complexes under development or recently completed that are 30 stories or more.
South Korea, which is approximately the same size as Ireland, holds a population of 50 million. Ireland has a population of 4.5 million. Ireland is a relatively flat country, South Korea is 70% mountains, which are not inhabited. The only logical choice for urban development is to go up, not out. In this series of posts, I’m going to try and document the benefits and problems of urban development, Korean style.