Getting Lost in Alleyways and Seoul’s Childhood

Not far from the busiest center of Seoul, with all the traffic and political rallies, there is Seochon, a quaint neighborhood in Seoul. In it, there is a single arcade that has been operating since 1988. It’s managed by Seol Jaewoo, a local resident who successfully crowdfunded to keep the his childhood haven open when the previous owner, a neighborhood grandma, could no longer afford to.

With urban renewal sweeping through Seoul, older buildings are rapidly replaced and neighborhoods run the risk of forgetting their history in the face of rapid change. Seochon now faces its own cultural reckoning.

Seol Jaewoo has helped to simultaneously preserve and reinvent Seochon for years. He began by chronicling the stories of residents and local destinations on his blog, which led to his first book “Seochon Direction” in 2012. He frequently gives tours, reminding people of a Seochon that is rarely seen from the outside.

Supported by the profits from his tours and other sponsors, he is also working to open a guest house and coworking space. He considers the revival of his childhood arcade in 2011 to be his most meaningful project, and all his work for Seochon derives from the sense of home the arcade represents.

Turn into any Seochon alley, and the past will unfurl to meet you. Winding alleyways wrap around traditional hanoks, hidden behind a facade of restaurants and shops, in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Seoul. There is a single arcade in Seochon that has been operating since 1988, standing bright, renewed, and full of the character of Seoul’s childhood.

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Mandy is passionate about storytelling for social change and has been creating multimedia stories with organizations around the world. She is currently an undergraduate history student at Minerva Schools at KGI.