The Evolution of Housing Rights Activism in South Korea

  • Seon Young Lee
Part of the The Contemporary City book series (TCONTCI)


This paper examines the evolution of housing rights movements in South Korea over the last four decades in terms of the evolution of the right to the city in a developmental state. The transformation of urban social movements (USMs) over housing in Korea can be divided into three waves. The movements, from the first wave through to the second wave, are mainly self-help movements and have various limitations that keep them from developing into a larger framework that can enact fundamental change. Tenants’ and owner-occupiers’ activism has made progress in developing strategies to address the adverse effects of market-driven urban redevelopment and housing development and has led to policy changes and new legislation. However, their activism has not seen the creation of new alternatives to existing society. In contrast, new movements have recently emerged in order to build an alternative urban redevelopment and housing development system and change the conventional concepts of housing and urban redevelopment. This new form of housing consumption and provision through housing cooperatives and new urban redevelopment methods could be one strategy which makes it possible to realise consumer control over housing on the basis of need rather than producers’ interests and speculator profiteering. These new attempts in the third wave are in their early stages, but they are valuable starting points that make it possible to think about what kind of the city we want to live in and how to reshape our cities by ourselves. These grass-roots movements potentially stand to create fundamentally different cities and change people’s day-to-day lives. This new grass-roots approach could be effective at tackling wider structural inequality which has resulted in unequal resource allocation for economic growth over the last half-century.


Housing rights Developmental state Urban redevelopment South Korea 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seon Young Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ResearcherSeoulSouth Korea

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