An article published in Seoul Shinmun in April 1972 sketches out a vision of the city of Seoul as a pedestrians’ city. The old center of the city, defined by four major gates, retains its originating outlook from the lost dynasty with no motor vehicles allowed within; with the exceptions of bicycles and electric vehicles with the maximum speed of 20 km per hour, the center of the expanding megapolis is inhabited by urban flaneurs freed from the violent demands and hassles of the so-called industrial progress. It is Kim Swoo Geun, one of the pioneering architects of modernism, who dreams of the unthinkable in the suitably titled article, “A Fantastic Urban Design.” “Fantastic” indeed, the city of dreams is a gigantic free space for all, or what the daydreamer calls “urban living room.”
The conception of Seoul as a free space becomes a meditative ground, or a MacGuffin so to speak, in Fantastic City that leads to the illumination of the fabrics of modernization propelled by the public corporation named KECC. Reconstructing the early historical trajectories of KECC through the recollections of those who were directly involved in its formation, including the very architects who tossed around the ideas of linear city and megalopolis among other fancy notions of the western avant-garde, Fantastic City tells the stories of vision, desire, errors, and uncertainty that roam what came to be known as modernism. What does modernity entail in Seoul after all? To what extent have its promises and failures affected the urban fabrics under the oppressing military regime?