An Urban Ecology of Seoul’s Nanjido Landfill Park

Jeong Hye Kim
PhD thesis (315 pages)
Architectural and Urban History and Theory
The Bartlett School of Architecture
University College London (UCL)

*The abstract is available online library. The thesis is restricted on access for publication (Routledge) and image copyright reasons. Contact UCL library for access to the thesis, in part or in full depending on the academic purposes.




This thesis examines the Nanjido region in Seoul, the site’s transformation from Nanjido Landfill (1978-1992) to the World Cup Park (2002-present) and its relation to the urban ecology within the context of the city’s urban development during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

The empirical field work on Nanjido Landfill and the Park constitutes the structure of the research, and the study analyses the urban ecological meanings of the site’s two distinct forms by consolidating them with key theories: the Lefebvrian urban theory developed by Andy Merrifield, the relational ecological theory of Félix Guattari and Lorraine Code’s epistemological approach to ecology. Throughout the thesis, Zygmunt Bauman’s analysis of waste in a global era, originally drawn from Mary Douglas’s discourse on purity-dirt, provides the essential ground upon which to interpret urban development as a method of sanitisation that manages the material and immaterial layers of the urban space.

The research, consisting of five chapters, explores how a set of relational environmental and social ecological factors constituted the governing power’s sanitary management of Nanjido Landfill and Landfill Park and, thus, in reverse, determined the site’s urban ecology. First, the study examines Nanjido’s environmental transformations in association with South Korea’s shifting political and economic situations. Second, I delineate how Seoul City had controlled wasted populations, i.e. the ragpickers, and the sanitary environment by means of DDT during its urbanization processes. Third, I investigate the inhabited landfill of Nanjido and illuminate the borderline characteristics of the landfill habitat’s wasted environment and its community. Fourth, I examine the regeneration of the Landfill into the Landfill Park within globalized environmentalist discourses, viewing the site’s transformation as another form of waste management in the new era. Fifth, I analyse site-specific works of art, which made disruptive attemps to explore the conflict between the invisible presence of the landfill’s garbage and its historical times, and the global and Korean society’s attempt to obscure that past.

As the first account of a landfill and landfill-turned-park of South Korea, illuminated from an urban ecological perspective, this study demonstrates that the modern norm of sanitisation is still applied to urban re/development, and suggests the relational dynamics of environmental and social ecologies as a revisioned lens to view urban re/development.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019
The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Confirmation of PhD in Architectural and Urban History and Theory

Candidate: Jeong Hye Kim 

Title:  An Urban Ecology of Seoul’s Nanjido Landfill Park 

The examiners, Professor Ben Campkin and Professor Harriet Hawkins (Geography, Royal Holloway) commended her thesis for the impressive level of empirical richness regarding the evolution of the site; fascinating accounts of sanitary management in post-war Seoul, and of human habitation on the landfill at various points in its history.

The thesis’s ambitious history and analysis of the treatment of waste in Seoul City (1978-present), focused on the Nanjido Landfill at different moments in the city’s urbanisation: pre-landfill, industrial/landfill and post-landfill/post-industrial, detailing how, as the city shifted into neoliberal governance and regeneration strategies, the landfill was regenerated as a park.

It offered a social, political and ecological history of the evolution of the Landfill of Seoul: from the site’s pre-landfill socially-marginal home, to a site for community-led self-build homes, a public park and a place of artistic and  ecological critique and performance.

Congratulations Dr Jeong Hye Kim!

Supervisors: Professor Peg Rawes (primary) & Professor Murray Fraser (secondary)



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