The Evolution of Informal Settlers’ Political Gains in Changing State Regimes in Seoul

Authored by: Boram Kim , Hogeun Park , Jaehyeon Park

The Routledge Handbook on Informal Urbanization

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138183889
eBook ISBN: 9781315645544
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines the interactions between an informal settlers’ movement and the state in transitional and mixed political state positions, ranging from authoritarian to bureaucratic and democratic in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The strategies of informal settlers and the urban poor for securing housing have changed in response to the changing positions of the state, and vice versa. The housing rights movements have achieved their claims for entitlement and public housing provision. However, new forms of housing poverty in Seoul show that past claims and the strategies of informal settlers have limitations in sustaining the gains for the mid-to-long term. We explored the limitations of these social movements, and the influence of developmentalism, an ideology that has remained consistent in South Korea while its political regimes have changed. Housing for the urban poor is still highly insecure, and their political space in decision-making for urban (re)development is still very restricted. This case highlights that it is critical for social movements to address the underlying causes of housing insecurity and governance failures, beyond claim-making and entitlement, in order for their gains to be sustainable.

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