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[Opinion] Brand-Name Apartments

Posted May. 01, 2005 23:46,   


“Going up, going up, and going up again.”

This is neither a comment on an expedition to the Himalayas, nor a complaint about surging commodities prices. In fact, it is ad copy that claims purchasing a branded apartment guarantees one of effective wealth management.

Nowadays, the construction industry considers it the norm that an apartment draws popularity only when its brand does so. There even was a report that the prices of two 32-pyeong apartments, with similar locations and designs differed by 90 million won depending on their brand.

At a time when distribution prices for apartments are deregulated and when “differentiation” has become a keyword for the trend of well-being, traditional methods of wealth management such as purchasing apartments, and the recent preference for luxury goods, have combined to produce this new custom.

It does not matter at all whether or not other people stick to luxury goods. What is deplorable, however, is that even houses, which are supposed to be the base of our living, are being swept into the trend of luxury spending. It is quite heartbreaking to see already high apartment prices continue to soar, distorting culturally deprived cities even more. Nevertheless, with massive marketing efforts from big construction businesses and the media, branded apartments are emerging as a symbol of a high-end residential culture.

It is my firm belief that good houses and cities are like trees and forests. The land nurtures trees, trees consist of forests, and forests fertilize the land. Branded apartments are like the trees “of privileged families,” awkwardly planted by a house seller after cutting down other trees in a forest. The authority of the “privileged family” comes somewhere outside the forest. The words “castle, regency, nobility, high-class, and idiosyncrasy”—are the images being pursued by the authorities. However, these images are nothing but sloppy replicas without any touch of culture.

With the value of images being added on, branded apartments resemble securities even more, like stocks and jewelry. They become even more useful for wealth management, but at the same time they become even more alienated from life and the land. Branded apartments are the products of our history, where only statistics and wealth management have become the criteria in manufacturing cultureless apartment complexes.

Nevertheless, we now even attempt to instigate wealth management efforts by decorating New Cities and the new administrative capital as branded products. By doing this, we are not only devastating our towns, cities and land, our own culture and minds are being devastated as well. An exhibition of immature trees can never replace a healthy forest.

Kang Hong-bin, Guest editorial writer, Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Seoul, hbkang@uos.ac.kr