AUGUST 2021 · ENG
There is a close relationship between health and the ways in which people live.In this episode of Post-Pandemic Cities, Kyong Park takes South Korea as an example to analyze the roots of the health and environmental crisis to capitalism.
Kyong Park is Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism at the University of California at San Diego where he conceives projects that connect architecture and urbanism with activism.
In Post-Pandemic cities, Park analyzes the roots of the health and environmental crisis to capitalism. He takes South Korea as an example, whose hyper-centralized economy, culture and education generates regions formed increasingly by aging populations who live in landscapes where the empty and the abandoned prevail. It is within this context that he developed “CiViChon, City in a Village”: an initiative on how to create an imaginary future at the scale of the village, rendering global, national, and local concerns to become more intimate, tangible, and relatable.
Post-Pandemic Cities #15
Audio: Kyong Park.
Realización sonora: Genzo P.
Comisariado: Kristine Guzmán and Eneas Bernal on the advice by Helena López Camacho.
Imagen: Giorgio Molfini. CiViChon model by Giacomo Alef Faiella, 2021.
Connect with Kyong Park’s CiViChon work via civichon.com.
Kyong Park exhibited the research “The New Silk Roads” at MUSAC in 2009. For more details on the project, you can check out this interview with the architect: youtube.com.
Hi, my name is Kyong Park and I’m a professor at the Department of Visual Arts in the
University of California in San Diego.
In my response to the question of how COVID-19 has affected my art practice, I would
like to talk about my new project called CiViChon, city in a village, and how it explores
the crisis in environment, community, democracy and capitalism and how these are
interlaced together to the historical tension between urban and rural culture.
South Korea has hyper-centralized its economy, culture, education so that now, 49.6 %
of its national population is living and working in Seoul Metropolitan Area. However,
South Korea is not an exception as almost every industrialized nation around the globe,
in varying degrees, have super-urbanized themselves into one or few globalized cities.
Population, material and wealth of the world has coagulated into fewer and smaller
islands with unprecedented prosperity with extreme wealth, thereby drowning the smaller
cities, towns and villages under the level of sustainability, pulling them down deeper and
deeper into the depth of despair with the weight of debris, waste and pollution that have
been dumped at or shipped to or drifted onto them.
South Korea has hyper-centralized its economyWhile the mega-city now begins to fear that they would soon disappear under the rising
sea level, the rest of the world has already sunk long before. By depolarizing vectors of
inequality that has taken the wealth, power and knowledge away from the rest of the
world under the centrifugal forces of neoliberal economic system in the globalization of
free trades, which almost all governments or nation-states have participated, colluded,
or were unable to escape from the ruling elites of financial corporations and their
unregulated, unlimited and unprecedented production of hundreds of derivatives,
insurances and equities that have never existed half a century ago.
Victims are not just shrinking cities of the world exemplified by Detroit, Liverpool, HalleNeustadt in former East Germany or Ivanovo, Russia, or so many other cities that we
already know. But equally shrinking are the forest of small towns and villages around the
world that are being emptied like the hilltowns in Toscana, Italia or throughout the
countryside in South Korea. They are depopulated and economically, in numerous other
ways, marginalized and barely kept alive by aging population while under siege by
growing numbers of empty homes and abandoned farms that are encroaching in this
landscape of attrition, affirming the so-called creative destruction theory of Joseph
The success of government policies to decentralize urban population have been too few
in time and space and the imbalance from inequality in education, economy and culture
between urban and rural areas have perpetuated to become normalized now. The
industrial and developmental policies that promised a life of prosperity and liberation
have not materialized for everyone and everywhere. The young generation in South
Korea is becoming more and more skeptical to the myth of forever growth, as they are
not awarded with jobs equal to their investment in higher education. The rising quality of
life from its export-based developmental economy that was built and enjoyed by their
parents appear to be fading into history. Similarly, the elders are unable to find good
work to survive in high-cost living in urban spaces. Signs of disappointment with
modernity and city-life are being posted more and more, as the annual national GDP is
an abstraction that levels to increased diversions of the “haves” and “haves not”, where
the promise of equality of the grand narrative of modernity have failed to deliver. Instead,
the growth forever economy is guaranteeing an existential appointment of humanity with
the environment as we have degraded or overused 60% of the world’s ecosystem to feed
ever-voracious, capricious economy that have grown more than five times since the
middle of last century. With the global emission rising by 4% since 1990, our rising GDP
is pushing us to extinction rather than to the promised land of prosperity.
The idea of regenerating towns and villages or turning urbanization into ruralization is
not simply moving people from urban to rural areas. It is a part of history of a much larger
movement or transformation of civilization, and therefore, must be imagined and
processed in the same context. The market-driven capitalism is the underlying genome
of urbanization and concentration of wealth is probably the exact reason why the
governments have been unable to decentralize its citizens. Regardless if they try or not,
they were simply overwhelmed by the power of advanced and globalized neoliberal
COVID-19, the first of many environmental crises to come, and a pandemic whose
lifetime can be longer than ours, is showing us that individual rights can be disastrous. It
showed us day by day around the world that us being all connected is not all good at all
times. It is making us rethink about being more disconnected and away from the center,
or more independent and more sustainable, self-sustainable, as we may have been in
our pre-modern era, or have to be in our post-modern future. Why? Because the problem
is not COVID or urbanization or global warming or anything else. It is none other than
ourselves, because we are producing all these problems that threaten us.
The slogan of “We are all in this together” on COVID-19 capitalist brand of propaganda
is in suspect. But not just because the mainstream capitalist corporations have
commodified it to market themselves as humane and caring industries, rather it is the
identity if “we” that is being pulverized by inequality in infection, death and vaccination
between colored and non-colored, rich and poor, and insured and non-insured people.
This is further divided by the fact that all nations in the far east wore masks 80% or above
during the first four months of COVID-19 while the rest were refusing to wear the, with
Germany starting from 0 to reach 60% mask-wearing, United Kingdom to 40%, Australia
20&, Denmark 5%. In the United States only 30% of Republicans always wore masks
and 62.5% of Democrats did in June 2020. It’s pretty obvious that we were not all in this
together. And the most disappointing was that people wore masks in order to protect
themselves from others but not to protect others from themselves. We are all divided and
we are all alone, instead.
Many think COVID would decentralize human population. Maybe so, until panic-driven
exodus to the countryside expires. But certain remote working, reduction of office spaces
and corporate headquarters would likely stay and become more normalized than ever.
Moreover, there were already some signs of reverse migrations taking place in South
Korea well before COVID-19. The so-called “qi-nong” or return to farm movement since
1996, has grown to 10,000 – 12,000 households per year between 2011-2015. When
combined with “qi-chon”, return to village movement, the rural migration has recorded
300,000 households moving to rural annually between 2013-2015. Although this number
seems much too high, the report claims twelvefold increase of “qi-nong”, (return to farm)
people from 2002-2015 annually, especially after 2008. The global recession that
virtually stopped urban redevelopment projects in South Korea may have contributed to
what is being claimed as a major geographical and population phenomena in South
Korea. This makes South Korea the right place to start a CiViChon. This name is made
from a combination of the first two letters of city (Ci) and village (Vi) and ending in “chon”,
a Korean word that typifies a rural place. Its subtitle “city in a village” suggest moving an
urban space into a village, suggesting ruralization process where city culture becomes
rural, thus reversing urbanization, when rural culture moved into cities.
CiViChon is destined to be a very long project because it is a collaborative project that
is oriented toward making a collective and in many ways, the project itself should become
a community. It is an imaginary project because reality has proven incapable of solving
our past and our future. CiViChon should never become complete because it would
rather than remain as a process forever, because in all probability, there will be no single
nor concrete solution at the end. CiViChon is a democracy in an anarchic state, willinglu
isolating between capitalism and socialism in search of something better and new.
Now, I did not have enough time to talk about CiViChon in detail but for further
information on CiViChon, you’re welcome to visit civichon.com. And thank you for your