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Struggles over Unlicensed Housing in Seoul, 1960-80
Urban Studies (2008)
  • Erik Mobrand, National University of singapore

What happens when an exceptionally strong state takes on an especially rapid expansion of squatter settlements? A dramatic struggle of such proportions—between the forces of fast industrialisation pulling rural people into the city and an effective, modernising state intolerant of squatting—was played out in Seoul, South Korea, in the 1960s and 1970s, when that city was one of the world’s fastest-growing metropolises. This paper documents battles over unlicensed housing in Seoul and finds that leaders repeatedly failed in their endeavour to clear the city’s shantytowns, despite the impressive coercive capacity of the South Korean state. Instead, the state was forced to accommodate other interests, including industrial employers, more-privileged urban residents, land investors and squatters themselves. The remarkable case of Seoul offers insight into broader questions about the politics of housing the urban poor in the developing world.

Publication Date
January, 2008
Citation Information
Erik Mobrand. "Struggles over Unlicensed Housing in Seoul, 1960-80" Urban Studies (2008)
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