Date 2017-04-27 Category 城市规划 Updater ssunha
Min, Hyeon-Seok
Researcher, The Seoul Institute
Last Update


Significance of Sewun Mall

When Korea’s national income per capita remained at USD 114 in 1967, a large mall complex totaling 205,536㎡ in floor area and sophisticated 17-story apartment buildings were constructed along Cheonggyecheon, where radio repair shops and brothels were previously located. Sewun Mall, spanning 1 km north-south from Jongno to Toegyero, was a marvel to people. It was Korea’s first large-scale construction project and is still a successful business area, although it has been challenged by its new competitors such as Yongsan Electronics Mall and Gangbyeon Technomart. While it is notorious as a major source of surreptitious videos and pornography, it is still known as a place where electronics and parts are available at the cheapest prices.
<Figure 1> A View of the Sewun Mall 


Historical Background of the Sewun Mall Site

To prevent damages to city infrastructure by possible incendiary attacks by combined forces, the Air Defense Act was revised in 1937. In 1943, regulations were put in place to allow existing structures to be moved or demolished by force if it was necessary for air defense to prevent a fire from spreading from one building to another. According to these regulations, an empty space of 50m in width and 1,180m in length between Jongmyo and Pildong would later become the site for the Sewun Mall.
However, as Imperial Japan collapsed and the Korean War broke out, this area was left without proper management and administration, which resulted in many illegal shacks occupied by refugees and fugitives from North Korea. In addition, unlicensed prostitutes increased in this area, and by the late 1960’s they formed a community called “Jongsam.”
<Figure 2> Inhyeon-dong Area

Design of Sewun Mall

Sewun Mall was planned to be a 1 km-long pedestrian-friendly mall with its pedestrian deck on the third floor of the buildings. On the first underground level, roads and parking lots were prepared to separate vehicle and pedestrian traffic. To connect the mall with nearby commercial areas in Jongno and Myeongdong, stairs were installed and connected with the pedestrian deck at connection points in Jongno, Cheonggyecheonro, Mareunnaegil and Toegyero.
Sewun Mall was designed as a business-residential complex, floors 1 to 4 were designed for businesses and the 5th – 8th floors were made into apartments. On the 5th floor in particular, an open space was prepared to include a park, playground and market. To make the residential space more comfortable, an atrium was built and apartments were designed with terraces.
The complex’s floor area ratio was 300%, but the net ratio excluding roads was planned to be up to 500%. The height of all buildings was kept at 8 floors, with part facing the arterial roads raised higher as a tower for a visual variation. To implement the “city in the city” concept, coffee shops, restaurants and clinics were placed on the 2nd and 4th floors with lower access and shopping malls were located on the 3rd floor to facilitate pedestrian traffic and sales. On the top of a building, an elementary school was built, to complete the complex as a city-like community.
<Figure 3> Actual View of the Sewun Mall Design


Construction of Sewun Mall

The redevelopment of the Sewun Mall District was the largest private-funded project at that time. Its total floor area was 205,897.52㎡ and its budget amounted to 4.4 billion KRW. Initially, the Integrated Planning Part, Housing Section, City Planning Office of Seoul City was responsible for the construction project, but as the work scope expanded due to the redevelopment construction boom, the Housing Section added the Business and Housing Part to be responsible for the Sewun Mall project.
In October 1966, Seoul City signed a design contract for Sewun Mall Zones A-D with Korea Engineering Consultants Corporation and went on to select the construction companies. Construction companies including Hyundai, Daerim, Poongjeon, Shinpoong, Samwon and Sampoong as well as the unions of land owners including the Asia Business Promotion Association and Cheonggye Business Corporation shared the expenses for purchasing the city-owned land and constructed facilities on it for sales and profit.
The Sewun Mall was constructed in 8 sections. In October 1967, the Hyundai Mall Apartments were completed. After that, the Asia Mall, Daerim, Cheonggye, Sampoong, Poongjeon, Sinseong and Jinyang Apartments and hotel were completed, and the construction of the whole district was completed in 1968.


Evaluation of Sewun Mall

① Positive Outcome

Immediately after completion, Sewun Mall became a new business area. Since the department stores like Sinsegae Midopa in Namdaemunro and Hwashin on the Jongno Intersection and Shinshin were quite old and rented out to individuals, Sewun Mall was more appealing because it was newly built and offered low pricing. In addition, Sewun Mall applied modern business administration strategies including product auction vouchers for TV ads and promotion and price-tag systems, which changed the outlook of business in Seoul.
In addition to general store facilities, Sewun Mall accommodated totally new facilities including offices for congresspersons, adult entertainment facilities, churches, saunas, supermarkets, aerobics rooms and indoor golf courses, which created Seoul’s new culture in the 1970’s. As Sewun Mall became a more active business area, the rent and land price rose and the apartments on higher levels gained value.

② Negative Outcome

Sewun Mall was not built as originally planned. Initially, there was a plan to build a pedestrian deck on the 3rd floor to make the Mall between Jongmyo and Toegyero a pedestrian-friendly one, but this plan was not implemented as the access stairs had a steep slope and the deck was not connected between the stairs and buildings. Accordingly, the plan to devote the ground area and the 3rd floor to vehicle and pedestrian traffic respectively was not implemented. On the ground area, the vehicle and pedestrian traffic got mixed, causing confusion and disorder.
The plan to place an open space to separate and connect the commercial, residential and business functions on the 5th floor was not realized either. Public and convenience facilities such as the government office, police substation, schools, banks and top gardens planned for the “city in the city” concept were not implemented and the atrium and terraces originally planned were partly changed during construction.
Towards the end of the 1970’s, criticisms arose against the Sewun Mall complex. Its unique appearance and size encroached on the city landscape. The green areas from Bukhansan to Namsan via Jongmyo were cut through, and issues were caused by the vertical separation of traffic without much consideration of horizontal traffic. This was considered to interfere with Seoul’s city axis and functional connection between the blocks at the ends of the mall as well as further activation of neighboring blocks.



Between the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the plans for constructing the National Assembly building were set up, and the choices for the site were either Namsan or Jongmyo. Residents illegally occupying the empty area between Jongmyo and Pildong began asking the government to drop the plan to build roads and transfer the ownership of the occupied government-owned land to people. As the military government was set up, the plan for constructing the National Assembly building in Namsan was withdrawn, the illegal residents’ demands continued in Jongmyo and Pildong. During this period, the Ministry of Finance transferred the ownership of 50% of the occupied land to civilians.
As the granted land and illegal shacks were left uncontrolled and prostitutes increased in this area, a need to manage this area emerged. Therefore, the Jung-gu Office set up the “Daehan Theater – Cheonggyecheon4-ga Planned Street Maintenance Plan,” and submitted a draft plan to build roads 20 m in width in the center and buildings 15 m in width on the sides of the planned street 50 m in width to Seoul Metropolitan Government. However, Seoul City rejected this draft plan due to a possibility to cause losses for the existing businesses and lack of road capacity.
After that, Seoul City requested O. Negler, a U.S. city planner working for HURPI to prepare an alternative option for the plan. The alternative option was to set up a building area 20 m in width in the center and roads 15 m in width on both sides. However, Negler’s plan was considered limited in that land rearrangement was difficult and too much empty space would be generated, raising the construction cost.
In July 1966, Mayor of Seoul Kim Hyeon-ok studied various options and consulted Architect Kim Su-geun for the design of the Sewun Mall and instructed Jongno-gu and Jung-gu to demolish the illegal buildings. At the same time, the city submitted a “Request for Assignment of Redevelopment Districts and Improvement of Poor Developments” to the Ministry of Construction. At the end of August of the same year, a site 50 m in width, 893 m in length, 44.650㎡ in total area was prepared by implementing an illegal settlement demolishment strategy promising compliant occupants rights to apartment residences and warning incompliant occupants that demolishment would be forced. On September 8th, a ground-breaking ceremony for the Asia Mall was held. On October 21st, Seoul City signed a design commissioning contract for Zones A, B, C and D of Sewun Mall with Korea Engineering Consultants Corporation. In November, the resolution for cancelling the planned street 50 m in width and assigning the improvement districts of poor developments passed by the central city planning committee.



Functional Decline of Sewun Mall and Discussions on Redevelopment


① Functional Decline

In the 1970’s, Sinsegae, Midopa and Lotte Department Stores were opened and Seoul’s core business area moved back to Myeongdong, causing the decline of Sewun Mall. The newly opened department stores became high-end business places, causing general stores in Sewun Mall to suffer further damages. At the same time, electronics, sound equipment and musical instruments that Sewun Mall specialized in were classified as items inappropriate to be sold in the city center, and relevant businesses were forced to move to Yongsan Electronics Mall, causing a drastic downfall for Sewun Mall.
Due to the drastic decline of Sewun Mall, the apartments on top of it were occupied by small businesses. Hangang Mansions and other large apartment complexes were built in Gangnam beginning in the early 1970’s, and the residents in Sewun Mall began to move. Sewun Mall’s residential function sharply declined as its purpose gradually changed to business.

② Redevelopment Plan Established as a Solution to Functional Decline

 Starting from 1979, 3 redevelopment plans were set up for this area. In the same year, the “City Center Redevelopment Project Plan Research: Sewun Mall Area” was set up, but became nullified due to the failure to make a cadastral notification. Later in 1984, the “Sewun Mall District Redevelopment Project Plan” was established for the east part of the mall and in 1988, the “Sewun Mall District, Sewun Mall Zones 2 and 3 Redevelopment Project Plan” was set up and included the west and east parts of the mall.

· City Center Redevelopment Project Plan Research: Sewun Mall Area (1979)

A plan was suggested to redevelop the old Sewun Mall and vicinity and restore the CBD function of the city center. Moving electrics and electronics businesses to suburbs and introducing business and cultural facilities in this area to totally renovate the district. It was also suggested to place green areas vertically from Jongmyo to Namsan and install a pedestrian path. The roads were also going to be improved greatly. It was planned to build an arterial road 30 m in width on the east to connect the mall with Namsan Tunnel No. 1, and to build a pedestrian path 10 m in width, green areas and a shopping mall on the west, with the road under the deck used as a parking area. Along with that, connecting decks were planned to connect the mall with the vicinity.
However, land lots were small and it was hard to obtain consent from land owners. Therefore, a plan was suggested to enable small lot development while small lots separation plan and block development were encouraged.

· Sewun Mall District Redevelopment Project Plan (1984)

The plan suggested in the City Center Redevelopment Project Plan Research: Sewun Mall Area (1979) was nullified due to a failure to make a cadastral notification. The Ministry of Construction again set up a redevelopment project plan for only the east part of the mall in 1982. This plan suggested landscaping on the deck area to complement the green areas axis and create a resting area to attract pedestrian traffic. Additionally, a large parking area was to be prepared to make the business area more active. Plans were set up to improve the inside of the buildings and convert them into officetels and residence hotels.
At the same time, the vertical arterial road on the east side was changed to an access road with less functions. Instead, city parks and pedestrian paths were added to complement the metropolitan green areas axis. The vertical arterial road function was moved to Baeogaegil connected to Namsan Tunnel No. 1.
However, it was difficult to convince small lot owners to participate in the project and finance the project. Therefore, it was suggested that the land division and organization method be used to proceed with the project and the total purchase option be introduced.

· Sewun Mall District, Sewun Mall Zones 2 and 3 Redevelopment Project Plan (1988)

As the west part of the mall was designated as a new redevelopment district in 1987, the existing plan was readjusted, and new zones were added in the new redevelopment project plan. This plan suggested that Sewun Mall be left as is and activate the functions of the vicinity. The scope and density of the project was mid-size (within 1,000 pyeong) and mid-height (5-10 floors), similar to the existing Sewun Mall.
To harmonize the horizontal arterial road and the Sewun Mall buildings, the construction line at both sides of the road 25 m in width was moved backward and public green areas were placed to complement the green areas axis. Beyond each road, a park was planned with underground public parking areas. Sewun Mall’s deck was landscaped as a pedestrian path and connected with nearby business areas. Also, as suggested in the previous plan, the roads on both sides of the mall were changed to a mid-sized one-way road 25 m in width.
 However, considering that the lots were small and owned by a large number of land owners, it was suggested that a redevelopment union be formed and a total development method be used as an improvement to the land division development method.
<Table 9> Redevelopment Plans for the Sewun Mall and Vicinity
  City Center Redevelopment Project Plan Research: Sewun Mall Area (1979) Sewun Mall District Redevelopment Project Plan
Sewun Mall District, Sewun Mall Zones 2 and 3 Redevelopment Project Plan
Scope § East and west areas of Sewun Mall § East area of Sewun Mall § West area of Sewun Mall, Zones 2 and 3 added to the ‘84 plan
Purpose § Restoration of the new city center CBD function § Total reorganization of purpose and structure for activation of Sewun Mall § Preservation and activation of Sewun Mall
§ Public function enhanced after development
Main Goals Green areas creation § Creation of green areas vertically considering the pricing of the city center between Jongmyo and Namsan § Addition of city parks and pedestrian paths to complement metropolitan green areas axis
§ Landscaping of the midair path deck to complement the green areas axis
§ Putting the construction line of the horizontal arterial road 25 m in width backward to strengthen the green areas axis
Pedestrian path building § New addition of a pedestrian path 10 m in width on the west side of Sewun Mall
§ Connection of Sewun Mall deck with nearby developments
§ Activation of the midair pedestrian deck and creation of a resting area § Use of the midair deck as a pedestrian-only space
§ Smooth course planning with the business district
Road and parking facility § Installation of an arterial road 30 m in width on the east side of Sewun Mall and connection with Namsan Tunnel No. 1
§ Expansion of Euljiro width
§ Use of the midair deck and road underneath as the parking area
§ Expansion of Baeogaegil and connection with Namsan Tunnel No. 1
§ Reduction of function of the arterial road 30 m in width on the east side to the district access road
§ Preparation of a large parking area to activate business
§ Planning of a mid-sized one-way road 25 m in width on both sides of Sewun Mall
Other § Building a shopping mall on the west side of Sewum Mall to expand its business function § Internal improvement of the Sewun Mall § 3D design rather than planar design
Method of implementation § Small lot division plan § Land division and organization method
§ Effect of total purchase induced
§ Land division and organization method
§ Total redevelopment
<Figure 4> The Sewun Mall Vicinity Redevelopment Plan


Conflicts on Sewun Mall Reorganization Promotion Plan


① Background and Details of Sewun Mall Reorganization Promotion Plan

Although redevelopment plans were suggested as a solution to the mall’s functional decline, the plans were not implemented. Since small lots were distributed over a large area and there were many landowners, agreement was hard to make. As several redevelopment attempts ended up in failure, the lots in Sewun district were further divided, land prices rose, and facilities degraded further. As Cheonggyecheon was restored in 2003, discussions began regarding the demolishment of Sewun Complex, creation of green areas and redevelopment. Later, Seoul designated this district as the Sewun Reorganization Promotion District in 2006, announced a plan to demolish the mall by 2015 and presented a plan to construct new buildings, create parks and green areas on 1 ㎞ of land from Jongmyo to Namsan. Seoul intended to secure city infrastructure including metropolitan vertical green areas with large-scale development and conduct circular redevelopment with the participation of residents.
However, stakeholders disagreed on the redevelopment plan. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) pointed out that the plan needed to be changed to preserve the cultural landscape of Jongmyo. Accordingly, Seoul City and Jung-gu Office created instructions for Sewun Zone 4 to resolve conflicts with that organization. Meanwhile, Jung-gu Office had conflicts with Seoul City regarding the height restrictions of skyscrapers. Seoul later promised to review this matter and alleviate restrictions if possible, thus resolving conflicts. Conflicts arose between Seoul City and the Office of Education over the site preparation for new schools in the district. These conflicts were resolved as the Office of Education accepted the plan to establish an additional elementary school on the Deoksu Middle School site. As such, conflicts were resolved, and the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan was confirmed in March 2009. 

② Conflicts with ICOMOS and Resolution: Jongmyo

When the Sewun Reorganization Promotion District was designated, ICOMOS-Korea pointed out the heights of the buildings in the district may ruin the cultural landscape of Jongmyo. It expressed a concern that Jongmyo as a World Cultural Heritage could be graded at “Endangered Cultural Heritage.” Accordingly, Seoul consulted the HQ of ICOMOS, and ICOMOS pointed out height, purpose and landscaping of Sewun Zone 4 near Jongmyo should be considered in the construction plan.
After that, 3 meetings were held to obtain advice, and the plan was adjusted. Jongno-gu pointed out that delay of the construction due to the height restriction for Jongmyo was increasing the financial losses on the part of the landowners and argued that the existing plan be kept to ensure the project is conducted as soon as possible. At this point, ICOMOS-Korea suggested that the height restriction be reconsidered and asked Seoul City and Jung-gu Office to allow the maximum height presented in the basic city and residential environment reorganization plan. It also suggested that part of the upper floors be used as various cultural facilities.
Jung-gu Office accepted these suggestions and adjusted the height of the buildings and changed some of the residential facilities in the block to business facilities to make up for reduction of business facilities caused by the height adjustment.

③ Conflicts with Jung-gu Office and Resolution: Height Plan

When the Sewun Reorganization Promotion District was designated, Jung-gu was setting up Sewun Mall Zones 2, 3 and 5 City Environment Reorganization Plan. This plan pointed out the inefficient land use caused by the height restrictions, and lack of vertical space usage in the city and suggested a skyscraper as a solution to this issue.
Jung-gu submitted this plan and hosted the “City Regeneration and Role of Skyscraper Construction,” promoting the need for skyscrapers. It also suggested that it was possible to create large open space through skyscrapers. However, Seoul City made it clear that it would adhere to the existing height restrictions. Conflicts between Jung-gu and Seoul City intensified as Jung-gu independently collected ideas for skyscrapers, promoted them through media and pursued a civil committee to ask for the removal of height restrictions in Jung-gu.
Later, Seoul negotiated with Jung-gu that it would consider alleviating height restrictions to enable skyscraper construction in Jung-gu, and reflect this plan in the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan and Jung-gu accepted this suggestion.

④ Conflicts with the Office of Education and Resolution: Provision of Schools

The Central Office of Education and Seoul City had 4 discussions to ensure the Sewun Reorganization Promotion District has schools. Seoul City requested the Central Office of Education to standardize the site for Deoksu Middle School and combine the elementary and middle schools. The Central Office of Education accepted the first request, but considered it appropriate to build an elementary school on a separate site. Considering the spatial need for the playground, it was made clear a site approximately 5,000㎡ in size was required.
Accordingly, Seoul City explained that the applicable laws required the superintendent to set up a plan to purchase sites for schools and the account of the project operator would pay the expenses as per the plans set up by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. Seoul also requested that a feasible school installation plan be established, noting that it was not possible to demand the developer to pay for the school site since the land price of the area for the school was 50-100 million KRW per 3.3㎡.
After that, Seoul City and the Central Office of Education further negotiated 4 times to agree on a decision to set up a plan for Sewun reorganization promotion within the scope of the regulations on school establishment. As a result, it was decided that it was a feasible plan to standardize the site for Deoksu Middle School and establish an elementary school on a separate site.



Changes to the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan and Future Plan

Although the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan was established, the project did not see progress. The height of Sewun Zone 4 was lowered after the review of the Cultural Heritage Administration, and the real estate recession was on-going. Due to the increased risk of development, it was hard to select operators. Furthermore, the internally created green areas axis in the promotion district was a heavy burden on the residents and the business conditions between Sewun Mall and the vicinity differed, causing conflicts. In addition, a movement arose to preserve the cultural and architectural value of Sewun Mall and historic value of the area, which caused Seoul City to consider making changes to the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan.
Later, Seoul City organized an expert T/F team with the participation of Jongno-gu, Jung-gu and SH and conducted 14 discussions. It also conducted research on the reorganization and interviewed residents (15 times) and gained consensus on the need to change the promotion plan and development directions. Finally, Seoul City cancelled the existing plan in 2009 and announced the Revision of the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan in 2013. Later in 2014, the Revision to the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan was confirmed and announced.

① Main Points of the Revision

The revision had a vision of developing Sewun District as a center of creation and culture industry, and putting it in harmony with historic and cultural resources in the city center, while also preserving the local community. The key point of the revision was the preservation of the original plan to demolish Sewun Mall and create a park. Also, to resolve conflicts for integrated development of Sewun Mall and vicinity, it was planned to separate the facility from the vicinity reorganization and renovate it as the residents wished.
The height of the new structures where Jongno and Toegyero meet was reduced from 90 m to 70 m, considering the cultural heritage in Jongmyo the landscape of Namsan and the building coverage ratio for zones where horizontal activation was needed or it was hard to secure a certain floor area ratio was revised from 60% to 80%. The floor area ratio was 600% for the city center business area, 100% incentive for the city center industrial activation area and 200% incentive for the area where the purpose needed to be converted. Also, the plan to add an elementary school was cancelled and it was decided to keep the current Deoksu Middle School.

② Plans and Operation

Seoul City plans to form a governance with the participation of residents, experts and the public to implement the Revision to the Sewun Reorganization Promotion Plan. To share the historical value of Sewun Mall and determine desirable options to utilize it, the city plans to conduct workshops with residents on a regular basis. It hosted the “International Symposium for Sewun Mall in the Light of City Recovery” (December 2013) to reach a consensus with Seoulites, including local residents and relevant experts. It also plans to confirm the guidelines for renovation and options for public support, implementation plans, strategies and timings through agreement with the residents.


Jeon, Wu-yong and six others (2001), Cheonggyecheon: Time, Place and People, Institute of Seoul Studies
Kim, Jin-ae (2003), Praise Our City, Ahn Graphics
Seoul City (2009), The Records of the Sewun Reorganization Promotion District
Seoul Museum of History (2010), The Sewun Mall and Neighborhood

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