Heart & Seoul

In the heart of Seoul is a small district named Euljiro. Passing through you might not grasp the size of its network of alleyways and back passages. These long and winding paths are roughly home to 10,000 shops and over 50,000 tradespeople, working in the area. The sheer variety of stores and workshops on offer is staggering, selling anything from cement to CCTV systems and creating anything from screws to steel sheets. The saying goes, you could build a tank in Euljiro, such is the variety of skills on offer.

The area was born after the Korean war ended in 1953. Hastily cobbled together using rebar and concrete and speedily erected with little planning or permissions. The idea was that it would help build up the city of Seoul, it’s the area that helped Seoul become what it is today. Sadly, modern Seoul now wants it’s prime central real estate back, to turn into apartments and more shopping areas.

The workers are worried, some have been working there since Euljiro’s workshops were first built, they don’t want to lose their workshops, their livelihoods and their community.

The area is utterly unique, the bustling alleyways, the shouts of orders and phones ringing off the hook, the smell of the machines and beeps from the motorbikes. It’s an incredible place, full of skilled people and textures that only an area like this could have. In the words of one of the workers I met, it would be their eternal sadness if the area was demolished.

Tom Barnes  <strong>Seoul from above</strong> - the dark area is Euljiro
Tom Barnes  <strong>Alleyways</strong> - full of 70 years of texture
Tom Barnes  <strong>이우돈</strong> - Woodon Lee has worked in Euljiro for 45 years as a metal worker
Tom Barnes  <strong>Woodon Lee’s workshop drawers</strong>
Tom Barnes  <strong>A church</strong> - illuminated in a back alley
Tom Barnes  <strong>Boxes</strong> - 50 years worth of watch parts
Tom Barnes  <strong>박종현</strong> - Jonghyun Park has been watch repairer in Euljiro for almost 60 years.
Tom Barnes  <strong>Jonghyun’s tools</strong>
Tom Barnes  <strong>Alleyways</strong> - Shutters at night
Tom Barnes  <strong>정기숙</strong> - Kisuk Jeong has worked in Euljiro for over 50 years as a steel plate cutter
Tom Barnes  <strong>Tools</strong> - Jeongyeol Choi's phone & tools
Tom Barnes  <strong>최정열</strong> - Jeongyeol Choi has worked out of Euljiro for 40 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>정경호</strong> - Kyungho Jeong has made audio cables for 40 years in Euljiro.
Tom Barnes  <strong>Mr Kim</strong> - a tool distributor for 30 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>박수현</strong> - Soohyun Park is a hardware salesman working from this space for 40 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>Fancy a drink?</strong> - one of the bars in Euljiro
Tom Barnes  <strong>김형구</strong> - Hyungku Kim has been cutting sheet metal in this workshop for 40 years.
Tom Barnes  <strong>정주연</strong> - Jooyeon Jeong makes electrical circuit breakers and has worked here for 15 years.
Tom Barnes  <strong>한진호</strong> - Jinho Han has been in this workshop for 33 years, welding + machining jobs.
Tom Barnes  <strong>No redevelopment</strong> - sign against gentrification
Tom Barnes  <strong>황중균</strong> - Junggyun Hwang is a cement salesman and has been working here for 20 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>반공한</strong> - Goonghan Ban is a tool delivery driver, delivering around Euljiro for 30 years.
Tom Barnes  <strong>Workshops closed for the day</strong>
Tom Barnes  <strong>이태순</strong> - Taesoon Lee, a glass cutter who's worked in Euljiro for 30 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>이태순</strong> - Taesoon Lee is a glass cutter who has been working from his workshop for 30 years.
Tom Barnes  <strong>Tools hanging on the wall</strong>
Tom Barnes  <strong>김정수</strong> - Jeongsoo Kim is a steel manufacturer who has worked in Euljiro for 30 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>Demolition</strong>
Tom Barnes  <strong>김종식</strong> - Jongshik Kim has run this hardware store for almost 50 years.
Tom Barnes  <strong>김현순</strong> - Hyunsoon Kim runs a laundromat
Tom Barnes  <strong>김광오</strong> - Gwangoh Kim has worked from the same workshop for 40 years welding.
Tom Barnes  <strong>김태웅</strong> - Taewoong Kim is a steel distributor who has worked from Euljiro for 20 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>한영철</strong> - Youngcheol Han is your one-stop-shop for sewing machines for over 30 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>이우환</strong> - Woohwan Lee has worked here for over 60 years fixing machines.
Tom Barnes  <strong>고정민</strong> - Jungmin Ko is a machinist who has worked form the same workshop for 34 years
Tom Barnes  <strong>Rooftops & alleys</strong> - Euljiro from above
Tom Barnes  <strong>Winding streets</strong> - Passages from above