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Baeksa Moontown

Tapio Snellman

A film documents the last remaining informal settlement of Seoul before it disappears.


Baeksa village, placed on the outskirt of Seoul, was built in the 60's, after the end of the Korean War, by the first wave of displaced urban poor of the city: little has changed since then.

The tiny houses were built by families over small portion of land, and are made of poor materials, such as corrugated-iron roof and bricks, wood panels and plywood: it is a rare example of preserved informal settlement and the last remaining in Seoul.

It may seem an abandoned place, lonely as the land on the moon could be, but its original name in korean, daldongnae, "moon village" refers not to its state of being, but to its privileged view of the sky at night. Indeed, behind the trees, the wild bushes and the words sprayed on the iron panels, there are pots of flowers, storage tanks, and little signs of a community that hasn't left this place since its foundation: in this video, titled Baeksa montown, Tapio Snellman guides us into an incredible visit in one of the last unrenewed place of the booming Seoul, to introduce us to a story that is still waiting been fully told to the world and yet it is going to disappear.

These daldongnae hamlets are on the radar of real estate developers and it is easy to spot the reason why: behind the intricate knots of wires and street signs, the skyline of Seoul is fully visible, made of housing complexes and skyscrapers glimmering in the distance. The city presses against this little hamlets, awaiting to inglobe this piece of land.

With a soundtrack provided by mixing birds and nature sounds with traditional music by Sang-R'Young Sang, Tapio Snellman documents the calm and simple life of the inhabitants of Baeksa: we see kittens playing in the streets, old men crossing the tiny alleys of the settlement, women climbing the hillside of the town and growing their gardens.

The aim of the film is to document and explore the existence of a community, a community which is shown cohesive, however uncertain their future might be.

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)

Authors icon Credits

Assistant: Oliver Snellman
Location: Baeksa, Seoul, South Korea
Music: Sang-R'Young Sang

South Korea 2016
Duration: 4'23"