Over the last 600 years, Seoul has undergone tremendous transformations. These include multiple transitions from a royal capital of the Confucian Chosŏn state (1394–1897) through a short-lived capital of the Korean Empire (1897–1910) to a colonial city of Japanese Empire (1910–1945). After liberation, while struggling with its colonial memory, the city engaged with Cold War urbanism, highlighted by its proximity to the DMZ. Seoul in the twenty-first century is taking on another transformation, by ranking itself among the world’s fast-changing megacities with growing diversities. These transformations did not happen seamlessly. The rapid change was propelled by multiple processes of construction, destruction, and reconstruction that took place in difference paces, involving multiple actors and dissident ideas. As a result, Seoul today is a city of spatial and temporal montages, a place of seemingly contradictions.
This conference explores varied meanings of the construction of Seoul from multiple disciplinary, thematic, and methodological approaches. How has the city of Seoul become what it is today? More specifically, the conference explores how the constant construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction shaped the uneven landscape today; and how individual and collective memories and imagination reflect and recreate the city’s unique urbanism. Ultimately, the conference will shed light on Seoul as a temporal and spatial montages and the contradictions and irony it imposes to the understanding of the city.
In order to promote discussions from comparative and interdisciplinary perspectives, the conference brings together 15 speakers from North America, Asia, and Europe, covering a wide range of disciplines such as history, anthropology, geography, architecture, and urban planning. As the first of its kind, the conference aims to create a unique working platform for scholars whose work involves Seoul across temporal and disciplinary boundaries, and to promote Seoul studies as a field of interdisciplinary study in North America.