Fantastic City
Hyun-Suk Seo

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?

“KECC was an amalgamation of every engineer and technician who could work on harbors, railways, and highways, among other infrastructures needed at the time.” — Jeong Myeong Shik, Former president of KECC

“I was deeply impressed to hear President Park Chung Hee determining that KECC shall be activated in conjunction with the Five-Year Plan for Economic Development.” — Paik Dae Hyun, Former member of board of KECC

“The engineers from the Japanese firm Pacific Consultant came over and coached us on the construction sites. We learned a great deal of the state-of-the-art technologies of the time.” — Jeon Sang Baek, Architect, Former staff of KECC

“I must say, the future Manhattan I sketched as a 24-year old idealist, at those meetings on dusty and empty riverside barracks, was a romantic fantasy.” — Kim Won, Architect, Former staff of KECC

“The modernist ideas were conceived out of particular social needs, which in fact had very little to do with the domestic situation in Korea at the time. Being influenced by those ideals was onething; realities quite another.” — Kerl Yoo, Architect, Former staff of KECC

“There were so many occasions in which I had to build models with no blueprints or dimensions. The architects’ discussions were to go on forever when the deadline was just around the corner, and I just couldn’t wait for them to nail down their ideas.” — Kee Heung Sung, Model maker, Former staff of KECC


  • Assistant Director
    • Byung-Ki Lee
  • Sound Composition
    • HASC
  • Graphic Effects
    • Eun Sun Park
  • Sound Recording
    • YeonSoo Woo