The Korean Pavilion 2018 Research Forum is a shared platform to study and discuss “State Avant-garde,” which is the theme of the Korean Pavilion. Throughout a series of events, the research forum would like to trace back Korean architects’ dreams on cities and architecture, which they hoped to achieve through state-sponsored projects that were designed about 50 years ago. In order not to draw any hasty conclusions, a comprehensive understanding of various theoretical and historical issues is required. Topics such as the state and civil society, politics and architecture, and postcolonial discourse, as well as the term “avant-garde”―one of the most problematic concepts in art history―must be understood. First of all, we would like to examine the historical context of Korean modern architecture from the 1960s through the lens of various related topics including Manchuria and Metabolism, modern architecture of Latin America and Asia, and the military governments and KECC―a technical consultancy for architecture and civil engineering established by the government in 1965―as well as heavy and chemical industries and tourism complexes. In today’s society government is smaller and so our imagination of how it can shape our future compared to the past is more limited. In the era we are living in, “State Avant-garde” cannot work as before. What does “public” mean and what roles can architects play in the urban architecture of the post-growth era? We would like to find answers to the questions in the remains of avant-garde.
Kenzo Tange is widely-known as an architect who led multiple projects for iconic governmental buildings, from the Peace Center in Hiroshima (1949-1954), Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (1952-1957), The Yoyogi National Gymnasium (1961-1964), and Osaka Expo Festival Plaza (1967-1970), to the more recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (1988-1991). However, the reason why he is known as ‘the state architect’ of post-war Japan is not just because he designed these iconic buildings that became national symbols. It is also because he elevated the importance of Japanese architecture’s identity by questioning the meaning of tradition in modern society. Beyond architecture, Tange also suggested urban infrastructure and tried to provide visions for Japan’s future.
The talk examines the state-operated Chungju Fertilizer Plant (known as “Chungbi”), completed in 1961. Built with the technical and financial aid of American agencies and the United Nations, Chungbi emerged as a prototype for the kinds of corporate-state alliances that would follow in the next decades. The industrial complex was constructed in the years in which the South Korean government heralded the “3Fs” as the driver of its developmental economy: force (fuel), fund, and fertilizer. The creation of the fertilizer industry anticipated the merger of science and technology, an ideological move on the part of the state to promote its technological imaginary. I examine the mobilization of architects within the human resource circuit that helped construct Chungbi, and how this industrial exchange bore on the emergence of modern Korean architectural expertise.
All of the nations in Latin America were colonized before declaring independence around 1810. The political situations on the continent were completely changed by specific geopolitical situations and international interests. And most of the countries have had to go through military coups and dictatorships. In powerful authoritarian regimes, artists are often asked to craft propaganda or they volunteer to become political. Some people became state architects and others did political art. Meanwhile, they were developing the locality of modern architecture in Latin America. It is very similar to the development of Korean modern architecture, except a century and a half later. Architectural styles in Latin America tended to be classic or masculine, as seen in their thick and strong looking exposed aggregate concrete structures, or “Manierismo” style. So are Korean modern architecture.
What is Manchuria like? Why on earth was Imperial Japan eager to advance into it and why did so many young Koreans go there during the Japanese occupation of Korea? What are the cities connected to the Manchuria Railway like? What are the landscapes of the vast fields in Manchuria like where the actors of Manchurian Western films ride horses?
This session introduces the records from a trip to Manchuria provided by the speaker who had all those questions in mind. It examines “illusions of Modern Manchuria” through the urban landscapes of Dalian and Harbin―modern cities developed alongside the Manchuria Railway and the Chinese Eastern Railway in the midst of competition of Japan, Russia and the Qing Dynasty―as well as of Changchun, the capital city of Manchuria that was idealized by the Japanese.
Manchuria had a special meaning to Koreans in the 20th century. It was “the land of diaspora” where many young Koreans headed in the 1910s to fight against Imperial Japan. Then, during the 1930s under Japanese rule, it was “a model of modernism” where Korean elites wanted to visit at least once in their lives. After the Korean War it was a huge influence on the Korean government’s “nation building project” in the 1960s. Assessing the cities and architecture of Manchuria―including Dalian, Harbin and Changchun―provide an opportunity to ruminate on Korea and East Asia in the 20th century.
After the Meiji Restoration, Japan experienced a number of wars and finally became an imperial power. From the period the nation feared it might be colonized by a western country to when it established Manchukuo and the concept of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, both public and private sectors in Japan mass-produced a wide range of visual material and disseminated and sold them. This session scrutinizes how the Japanese public and private sectors represented war and the rest of the world during the Imperial period and what images they wanted to promote externally, mainly with the speaker’s references.
Korean Ministry of Works and Seoul City Government together with Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) carried out a few pilot projects that tested out various housing formats in the early 1960s. Then they began to work on the constructions of multiple apartment complexes in and around the Gangnam-gu area from the mid-1970s. The urban development trend seemed to pair with the policy of developing heavy and chemical industries. However, their project faced a crisis due to the rise of speculative investment in real estate around the second oil crisis. Excessive capital investment, an increase in liquidity, and inflation were the reasons. It was the young technocrats of the Economic Planning Board (EPB) who stepped in as the relief pitcher in the situation.
The technocrats, who were known as the “Park Chung Hee Kids” or the so-called “reformative free market group” tried to find new solutions to housing problems while seeking price stability from the macro-economic perspective. Since the 1980s, they had been appointed to important posts in the Department of Economy or Cheongwadae, the Korean presidential residence, under the enormous support of the new military regimes. They led the government’s policy-making and the implementation of a new economic policy where the keywords were “safety, openness and independence.” They were also involved in a variety of urban development and house building, and the introduction of the Housing Site Development Promotion Act and the public concept of land ownership. This forum explores the changing role of large apartment complexes, shifting from the solution of housing problems under the architectural and military perspectives to the incubator of the middle class from an economic policy perspective.
The construction and multi-staged completion of the nation-state’s first modern international airport terminal at Kimpo in 1960 placed it alongside the boom in mass air transit and airport building taking off in the US. And like its American contemporaries, such as the new TWA terminal in New York (1956-62) and the Washington Dulles terminal (1958-1962) which inaugurated the jet-age in the United States, the modern Kimpo terminal, fashioned in Modernist International Style trademarks, was celebrated as nothing less than the embodiment of “modernity and sophistication” in South Korea.
However, quite unlike TWA and Dulles, which were shaped during the heyday of Fordism and the post-war US economic boom, the first Kimpo international airport terminal came at the heels of a fledgling state of a recently divided nation with diametrically opposed political-economic alignments, the physical destruction and economic impoverishment of civil war and great political instability.
As such, its modernity, indexing the rise of US Imperialism in Asia, took on quite different meanings. Just as the ghostly presence of North Korea, now lying outside the divided nation’s new Cold war internationalist orbit, would constantly be evoked in the ideology of modern Kimpo, it was at the same time haunted by an “international” mirror guiding its material and discursive production as an exemplary locus of South Korean modernity.
I saw an editorial cartoon and a blurred photographic negative that both featured in the same newspaper but six months apart. The cartoon was published on 27 December 1961 and the photograph was the winner of the photography category at the inaugural Emerging Artist Prize, which was held on 1 May 1962. They chronicle the history of Korean politics with the cartoon depicting Chang Myon’s government and the negative representing the constitutional vacuum when the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction oversaw Korea’s government.
Editorial cartoons and photographs can begin discussions. I was curious because the two references seemed to be a symbolic representation of the transition from a liberal government to a military regime in a broader sense, showing the intellectual’s dream for an ideal country being replaced by violent construction and nation mobilization led by the government. And the curiosity became a starting point to slowly but surely affirm Walter Benjamin’s famous quote: “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” Max Weber’s theory that the modern state is defined by its monopoly on the legitimate use of violence also came to mind.
So the title of the forum is “Violent Construction and the Mobilization of a Nation.” Han Seok Jeong, a sociologist, wrote in his book Manchuria Modern that the economic development strategy in 1960s Korea derived from the one used in Manchuria. The cartoon and the photograph mentioned earlier were made in the early 1960s, which Han singles out as an important period in Korean history. They depict the time when the state used its agenda to justify requiring people to make sacrifices and be silent while society was extremely divided and many were excluded.
The inception of the discussion was just an illustration and a negative, but that was just a jumping off point to examine how the “National Development Plan” and the establishment of the “Department of National Development” were justified and how they proceeded, which is very important to understand. The reality that we face less than half a century after then makes me feel a lump in my throat. And I ask: what is a nation?
This forum traces back the reason why the government designated Ulsan as its industrial center in 1962 and the process of development after that. Ulsan was developed as a harbor city long ago due to Ulsan Bay, which itself is a natural harbor. The boats on the neolithic Bangudae Petroglyphs; the steel production in Dalcheon north of the city predating the Shilla Kingdom; Gyebyunseong fortress in Bangu-dong, Jung-gu, known as the national harbor of the unified Shilla. These are symbols of Ulsan’s development as a port city over a long timespan. Meanwhile Jwabyungyoung Castle, Jwasooyoung Castle, Yooposeok Moat, Ulsan-eup Castle, Eonyang-eup Castle, Seosaengpo Manhojin and shipyards demonstrate that Ulsan was the base from which to defend against external maritime powers such as Japan.
Ulsan Harbor and Yollak Base Public Corporation, where construction began in 1943, were Imperial Japan’s projects to develop Ulsan as its base from which to advance to continental Asia. The Ulsan development blueprint devised by the Japanese was adapted and brought into the Five-Year Economic Development Plan after a meeting between Park Chung Hee, President of Supreme Council for National Reconstruction as well as President of Korea at the time, and Ahn Kyung Mo, Director of Ulsan Development Plan. The two plans share a location but their purposes are different: ‘a victory in the war’ and ‘an escape from the poverty’ respectively. The reason why the 16 May coup military regime chose Ulsan as its center of industrial development was not only its ideal coastal location, but also because it reclaimed vast amounts of land there that had been controlled by Imperial Japan and inherited its Imhae Industrial Complex Development Plan.
The government-managed project in Ulsan made the city an industrial center that functioned as a testbed for economic development across the nation. The year 2017 is the 55th anniversary of the development of the center and the 20th anniversary of the upgrade of the city to a metropolitan city. However, having been through intensive industrialization, the city’s industrial zone is actually larger than the sum of its residential and business areas. The secondary industry overtook the tertiary industry and now the city looks quite unbalanced.