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Seeking Spatial Justice at the Urban Gray Area, the Place between Public and Private Sphere

Hyun-Suk MinㆍJi-Yeon Oh

Due to the global pandemic, human activities are becoming more focused within their communities and the communities are trying to accommodate as many demands of social activities as possible within their communal boundaries. In line with this changing trend, people are beginning to discover the meaning of spaces that are hidden around communities and share this information with close contacts through direct and indirect modes of communication. This trend may provide an opportunity to alleviate spatial injustice that has increased due to the accelerating globalisation based on neo-liberalism before the outbreak of pandemic.


Some spaces earned spatial specificity through the unique mixture of physical environment, social context, and human activities that occur within them, and capital was unequally concentrated in these places to maximise their geographical advantages. Due to this reason, many nations around the world have developed active space marketing policies to attract buoyant capital, which were mainly focused on urban areas. Cities are hubs that connect their surrounding areas and play a pivotal role in maintaining regional uniformity. At the same time, they are also the engines of social innovation and development.


Space marketing targeting cities has focused on creating urban images that can induce concentration of capital. However, these created images of cities are nothing but glamorized illusion that exists only in pictures like the ones that we see on the standardized postcards in souvenir shops. In space marketing, showing off the beauty of the city to attract tourist, or in other word, appeal to those who consume the image of the city, was more important than discovering its unique charms. In this tendency, many undeveloped regions came to overlook their unique regional traits and started to implement marketing policies that imitate the external image of regions that gained popularity, creating monotonous urban images in mass.


Meanwhile, the government’s balanced development policies — that regard spatial differences created by unique local spatial traits as spatial disparity that causes regional conflicts rather than natural spatial phenomenon — have accelerated this tendency and damaged spatial diversity among regions. The standardized spatial policies caused all regional spaces to compete for the same goal and in the same way rather than distribute resources distinctively by using the regional spatial differences. This further reduced the scope of choices for those who wish to enjoy diverse spaces and caused unnecessary conflicts between regions to secure the same average resources, thereby causing diseconomy of scale.


However, not all spaces exhibit spatial specificities that create spatial differences. Just as our innate genes create individual differences that set us apart from others, spatial differences can be experienced only in spaces having these traits that create spatial specificity. Therefore, in order to enjoy the advantages of differentiation based on spatial differences, the gray area where spatial trait factors that have been derived from socio-spatial networks exist must be targeted. Here, the urban gray area is the unofficial neutral zone which displays its spatial ambiguity and boundary trait, that is in the limelight due to the reduced radius of activities from the current pandemic situation. Outdoor cafes, restaurants, small sitting areas in front of local supermarkets, small parks or empty lands, veggie patches, alleyways, etc. are the gray areas where different spaces collide and meet.


This study aims to resolve the issue of spatial injustice that has occurred due to the efficiency of capital investment or focuses on the distribution structure regarding the equality of spatial development by recognizing spatial traits as the basis of spatial diversity to implement unique and differentiated spatial policies rather than cause spatial inequality. To this end, this study proposes a methodological approach to derive trait factors that create spatial traits and establish distinct spatial policies based on the innate factors of each space. The study applied four items that create spatial specificity which were introduced by Yi Chung-hwan in his work Taekliji : geography (physical trait factor), physiology (economic factor), people (social factor), and landscape (cultural factor). The causes of spatial differences that appear in the gray areas were empirically identified by applying structural equations to analyze the relative impacts of spatial trait factors to spatial specificity that is observed in each gray area.


A distinctive approach that identifies the comparatively advantageous spatial trait factor affecting spatial specificity of each space and enhances their potentials protects the innate traits of spaces and avoids exhaustive spatial competition. Through this, it will resolve spatial injustice caused by unequal focus of capital and provide opportunities for diverse spatial experiences to the public. However, as each spatial trait occurs due to complex interactions between various spatial trait factors rather than the comparatively advantageous spatial trait factors, the approach of this study that discriminatingly enhances specific spatial trait factors has a limit. Nevertheless, it is meaningful as it suggests a new direction to the current spatial balance policies that perceive spatial difference as spatial disparity by identifying the cause of unique landscapes and cultural content in specific spaces through invisible factors called spatial trait factors.