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Evaluations and Development Suggestions for Seoul Public Hanok Project

Hyun-Suk Min · Ji-Yeon Oh

After opening a field office in Gahoe-dong in 2001, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has purchased hanok buildings on the verge of demolition and operated them as a project called ‘Seoul Public Hanok’. For the last 20 years these buildings have played a leading role in promoting Seoul’s hanok policy for citizens of Seoul. With the launch of the 10th administration in 2022, the SMG is currently preparing for a new change in its hanok policy. Researchers analyzed the development of the Seoul public hanok project and its effect from the social, economic and cultural viewpoints, presenting requirements for improvement through interviews with those concerned. They also proposed suggestions for its mid and long-term development.

First, the Seoul public hanok project was analyzed to assess its social, economic and cultural effects. Based on statistical investigation with newspaper articles on Seoul public hanoks, this project was understood in the context of Seoul’s hanok policy. It has expanded its range to support community activities of local residents, even rent people’s hanok houses as well as introduce visitors to the Korean traditional housing culture. According to an inter-industry analysis, the Seoul public hanok project has induced the volume of economic production corresponding to 1.7 times of investment costs for the last five years. A survey was also conducted for program users of Seoul public hanoks. The survey revealed that programs in Seoul public hanoks had been regarded highly, while their public awareness was considerably low. Using basic indexes recommended by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the cultural influence of Seoul public hanoks was evaluated. Results suggest that it is urgently required to expand opportunities for citizens’ participation, offer tailored services for all strata of citizens and promote their cultural creativeness.

There followed a series of in-depth interviews with focused groups, operators of Seoul public hanoks, divided into categories of cultural exhibition facilities, traditional- handicraft workshops, community-focused facilities, and Hanok rent houses. As for cultural exhibition facilities, researchers found that these facilities were operated individually, resulting in a lack of consistency between related programs and overlapping their functions with each other. Researchers also found that a detailed operation plan should be established for the public space of the Bukchon Inn opened in this spring. On behave of the cultural identity in Bukchon with Korean handicraft tradition, researchers questioned about temporal limitations in the operation of Seoul public hanoks. In a Hanok rent house opened in 2017, repairs and maintenance conflicts were issued. These could be major tasks.

The researchers proposed suggestions for further development of the Seoul public hanok project based on its social, economic and cultural effects and in-depth interviews with operators. The following suggestions are made: (a) a branding strategy should be established to increase public awareness of the Seoul public hanok, (b) citizens’ creativeness should be improved by tailored services for different strata of the society, (c) curation systems should be introduced for an integrated operation of Seoul public hanoks, (d) a public space should be created for experiencing the cultural atmosphere and hospitality of the hanok village, (e) a long-term installment sale for Seoul public hanoks should be introduced to secure the identity of the hanok village, (f) a management manual should be created for a Hanok rent house to resolve repairs and maintenance conflicts between relevant organizations.