The Making of Gangnam: Social Construction and Identity of Urban Place in South Korea
Amid a globally increasing trend of urban segregation, this article asks why a particular urban place, the Gangnam area in the city of Seoul, has come to symbolize the rich and the powerful, consolidating both socioeconomic segregation and political conservatism in a short span of time. While different approaches exist that partially explain Gangnam’s luxurious lifestyles, fervent real estate speculation, obsession with education, and political conservatism, this article seeks to provide a holistic explanation for the rise of Gangnam and draws particular attention to the social construction of place identity. Based on the analysis of historically and contextually grounded evidence, imaginations, and cognitive scaling of different stakeholders, it suggests bidirectional formations of self–other and present–future identities, highlighting the sociopsychological aspects of place identity formation. Specifically, it explains political conservatism as the attempts of Gangnam residents to sustain the area’s entrance barrier and pass on their exclusivity to future selves and children.
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