American Helps Save Traditional Korean Neighborhood

Some 40 Korean traditional houses have been saved from demolition by the tenacious efforts of an American who loves Korean traditional culture. The Seoul Administrative Court on Thursday cancelled the redevelopment plan for the Dongsomun-dong area in Seongbuk District by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. Twenty residents had sued the city to preserve the traditional houses.

Peter Bartholomew in his traditional Korean house on Thursday /Yonhap Peter Bartholomew in his traditional Korean house on Thursday /Yonhap

In 2004, the Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to redevelop over 25,000 sq. m in dilapidated Dongsomun-dong, and finalized the plan in 2007. Some 43 Korean traditional houses in the designated zone would have faced demolition. But Peter Bartholomew insisted that the houses must be preserved and along with 19 other residents of Dongsomun-dong, filed a lawsuit against the city government plan in 2007.

The court ruled the historical value of the hanok or traditional houses did not save them from being condemned if they were dilapidated. But the Seoul Metropolitan Government had included already demolished buildings that only existed on paper in the building register to justify the plan, and without those the percentage of dilapidated buildings fell short of the 60 percent the law requires for blanket demolition.

Bartholomew came to Korea in 1968 as a member of the Peace Corps and has been living in a Korean traditional house in Dongsomun-dong for 35 years.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 05, 2009 11:39 KST