A Study of Korea Urban Regeneration from the Perspective of Feminist Geography



ShunPing He, KwanSeon Hong


Graduate School of Dong-Seo University 

Busan, Korea








The paper combines the theories of feminist geography and urban regeneration to propose the concept of feminist urban renaissance according to the current situation of Korea, in the hope of offering a new perspective for the future development of Asian metropolises. It will demonstrate the guiding significance of feminism for the urban development from theory and practice: Firstly, the related domestic and foreign research achievements of feminist geography and urban regeneration are theoretically sorted out to unveil the important significance of combined research of feminist geography and urban regeneration from multiple dimensions such as an analysis of historical development of existing findings and theories cross-over, etc. Then the enforce ability of feminist urban renaissance is explored from the concrete practice of urban regeneration in Korea, to illumine the direction for the forthcoming development of urban construction in Korea.


Keywords- Urban Regeneration; Feminist Geography; Korea


1. Introduction


The post-modernist design thoughts have also increasingly leaded the attention of the scholars in the humanity domain to the study based on gender perspective. The gender acts as the natural property of an individuals status, and is more a social relation mapping social reform, social inequality and opposition to privilege. The feminism started to develop in Asia later than in the western developed countries, and the females still encounter various social problems in current urban production and daily life, especially in the Asian countries represented by Korea, China and Japan, the deep-seated patriarchy has always been imposing ethical restrictions on women. Even though theoretically the feminist geographers have already pointed out the existence of male-dominance thinking in the urban planning domain [1], while the authorities have also introduced various urban design measures caring for females, yet in practice the Asian women are still unable to counterbalance the masculinity pervading various public service facilities and public spaces, and are frequently treated unfairly in some or other ways. This has become a kind of "seemingly normal" daily experience [2]. These practical problems in Korea ask for correcting, perfecting and improving the existing cognition and related practices from theoretical investigation and instituting of public policies, etc.

Another important standpoint of this paper is that inviting the females to return to urban space serves as a valuable approach to current urban development problems. The urban regeneration just makes practicing the theory of feminist geography possible. Especially in Korea, the future of "feminism urban renaissance" has turned up, which, however, requires our attitude of adequate attention, to correct, perfect and improve the existing cognition and related practices from multiple aspects such as theoretical investigation, instituting of public policies, and urban planning, etc. Only really enjoying the urban space can get feminism down to earth from ideal.


2. Feminist geography


The geographers have also set foot in this domain depending on their unique overall characteristics and powerful spatial analysis ability while the scholars of history, sociology and anthropology, etc. are closely watching feminism. Influenced and driven by postmodernist and neomarxist geographers like David Harvey, Henri Lefebvre, Edward W. Soja, et al., the research on geographic elements distribution, a traditional geographical research sector, has also begun to turn to profoundly researching into the equality of resources allocation, gender-based difference, the social system and structural mechanism behind the elements distribution and allocation. The geography experienced a sociocultural turn in the 1980s, leading to the turn of the perspective of spatial research, i.e. the turn from production in space to the production of space. In lieu of the material space, the social space became an important object of research for social and cultural geography. Fueled by the real context of female movement in western world, gender as a keyword for social and cultural research naturally became correlated with the research on social space, leading to gradual rise of feminist geography which is as shown in Fig. 1 below.

The feminist geography is mainly influenced by three geographical thoughts: humanistic geography, structuralism geography and postmodernism geography [3]. The humanistic geography supplies a good many materials to feminist geography in the aspect of females affective experience and identification, and the structuralism geography supports feminist geography from the functions and role of gender elements in the spatial structural relationship, while postmodernism geography forms the direct source of feminist geography from the aspects of de-androcentrism and the shaping action of females on space and place, etc.


Table 1.  The Relation Between Females and Space in Feminist Geography


Space type

Exploration in terms of feminist geography

Body space

Interaction between females' subjective emotion and objective geographical environment, the relation between female body and townscape

Home space

Shaping of home space by females and restriction or encouragement of home space for females

Work space

The influence of gender ratio and structure on social politics, economy and culture

Public space

”Plurality and tolerance of females advocate "de-androcentrism" in the urban space


3. Progress of Korean urban regeneration


Since the 21st century, the focus of Korean urban regeneration has gradually shifted from economic rehabilitation in central urban zone to the environmental improvement in urban settlement. Korean Special Law on Urban Regeneration enacted in June 2013 classifies urban regeneration into two types: Economic basis type and neighboring regenerated type, with the latter being promoted by Korea for majority of urban regeneration projects. Korea in 2015 further classified the neighboring regenerated cities into type of urban central street (commercially comprehensive function) and type of general neighboring (pure residential function). In July 2017, Korea's new deal on urban regeneration divides the urban regeneration into five categories according to the area size of urban regenerated regions: Adding the type of community restoration and type of community reorganization support to the original classification. The concrete characteristics of the five types are as shown in Table 2[4] and Table 3 below.


Fig. 1 Theoretical Sources of Feminist Geography


Table 2. Development of  Korean classification of urban regeneration types






Policy name


Special Law on Urban Regeneration


National urban regeneration

Policy for 2014-2023

New deal on urban regeneration

Classification of urban regeneration types

Economic basis type

Neighboring regenerated type

Economic basis type

Urban central street type

General neighboring type

Economic basis type

Urban central street type

General neighboring type

Community restoration type

Community reorganization support type


Focus of rebuilding

Business district

Business district and residential district


Residential district




Table 3. Characteristics of Korean urban regeneration types





Economic basis type

Located in urban subway stations, shopping malls, harbors, etc.,

Promoting economic recovery,

Combining facilities rectification and industry development,

Promoting urban employment.


Urban central street type

Helping the declining and old central urban business zones to regain economic vitality.


General neighboring type

Restoring the old and bad residential zone


Community reorganization support type

Improving the living environment for residents in low-rise and densely populated districts


Community restoration type

Improving the neighborhood in small low-rise and densely populated districts

Below 50,000



4. Combination of feminist geography and urban regeneration


4.1. Necessity of cross-over study


As will be readily seen from the Korean policies and laws on urban regeneration promulgated in recent years, Korea has shifted the focus of urban regeneration projects to amelioration of residential environment and life quality from restoration of economic vitality and promotion of business development, which increasingly refined the regional scope involved in the urban regeneration projects. It can be found from the area size change in classification of urban regeneration types by the Korean government in the short four-year span from 2013 to 2017 that the Korean urban regeneration had begun to trend to the "microcosmic" from the "macroscopic", while the female hypersensitivity to the "microcosmic" just claims attention from urban regeneration. So it is necessary and pressing to conduct a cross-over study on feminist geography and urban regeneration for the current Korea.


4.2. Possibility of theory and practice


The cross-over study of feminist geography and urban regeneration theory is mainly embodied in two dimensions of time and space. In terms of time, the early preparation by western feminist civil rights movement and the social aging due to Korea's low birth rate both highlighted the emergent need for current Korea to boost economy via the knowledge and skills of female population, especially inviting the women with children in Korea to return to social work will help to optimize the structure of the labor force for the whole society. In terms of space, to invite the females to return entails guaranteeing their rights in material space and social space, while the spatial types involved in urban regeneration happen to coincide with the spatial types delved into by the feminist geographers, with the two's logical relation as shown in Fig.2. The dual possibilities of time and space both demonstrate that the feminist geography can direct and provide a new perspective for Korean urban regeneration, which in turn can offer the stage of development and practice for feminist geography.


5. Conclusion

In summary, feminist geography and urban regeneration both focus on how to evoke interaction between females and cities, which new perspective can spark new vigor for the cities. Thus, this research suggests Korea should develop feminist urban renaissance from political, economic and cultural aspects, etc. This is the best perspective of thinking to solve the problems in Korean urban development and a social problem urgently claiming attention. With dual properties of simultaneous development of theory and practice, it can both deepen the theory of urban regeneration and provide a stage for practice for the females.





This research was supported by BK21plus Level-up Project for Marine design team in Dongseo University





[1]    Gillian Rose, Feminism&Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge by Gillian RosePolity Press, 1993, p. 7

[2]    Alexander R. Cuthbert, “Understanding Cities: Method in Urban Design”, 2011, P. 150

[3]    YAO Hua-song, HUANG Geng-zhi and XUE De-sheng, “Reviews on Feminist Geograghyical Studies”, human geograghy, Vol.32. No.2 2017, p. 11

[4]   Kyung-Sook Jeon, A Geographical Consideration and Suggestion on Urban Regeneration Research in Korea,The Korean Urban Geographical Society, Vol.20. No.3 2017, p. 16