Five People Killed As Fire Engulfs Protest; Superexpress urbanism - Yongsan 4 district

Burned Out

Woohae Cho

Seoul, South Korea. January 2009

Government plans to gentrify the Yongsan section of Seoul, north of the Han River, were met with resistance from residents and many small-business owners, who objected to the radical changes proposed for their community. On 19 January 2009, a group of about 40 people, organized by the Committee of Residents Forced Out of Yongsan District 4 in Seoul and the National Coalition of Forcefully Relocated People, occupied a building at the center of the gentrification scheme.

Police moved in the next day, deploying a force of some 1,300 officers, with 100 SWAT officers on the roof. The event that ignited the events that followed are murky – police said a Molotov cocktail was thrown and that the roof caught fire, though critics said the police were known to start fires on roofs to force occupants to withdraw. In the fire and confrontation that followed, five protestors and a police officer died. Another 23 people were injured and 28 arrested.