Seongsu Neighborhood (Seongsu-dong; 성수동1가; map; 성수동2가; map) is a hip area behind Ttukseom Hangang Park in Seoul.
Known as the Brooklyn of Seoul, the neighborhood once hosted hundreds of factories, pumping out everything from shoes to TVs, and writing the history of Korea’s economic development.
History of Seongsu
After the Korean War, Korea’s economic ascension arrived in tiers.
- First, the country built infrastructure and improved agriculture.
- Next, Korea manufactured raw materials, like steel and petrochemicals.
- Then, the economy pivoted to making things.
In the 1970s, factories overwhelmed Seongsu. They assembled uncomplicated goods, like textiles, books, radios, and shoes, earning the neighborhood the title “Seoul’s Factory District.”
By the 1990s, however, the nation shifted to manufacturing semiconductors and smartphones. And the average Korean moved from the factory floor to the office cubicle.
Seongsu’s factories belly-flopped into the 21st century. Many closed. Only bespoke shoe and clothing shops remained.
What’s it called when privileged, educated folks invade a cheap, down-and-out neighborhood? Gentrification!
In the 2000s, entrepreneurs snatched up desolated brick buildings. They flayed and gutted them, tattooed their weathered exteriors with murals, then stuffed their innards with artisan cafes, shabby-chic eateries, and exhibition halls.
Want to visit this hipster enclave?
- From the Han River, slip through Seoul Forest and travel half-a-kilometer north (directions).
- Or take Seoul Subway Line 2 and get off at Ttukseom Station (뚝섬역; map) or Seongsu Station (성수역; map).
Or, Bam! You’ve reached the heart. What can you do there?
- Drink coffee at Seongsu Neighborhood Cafe Street (성수동 카페거리; map).
- Mill around culture and shopping spaces built from disused cargo containers (map).
- View art galleries at S-Factory (에스팩토리; map) or The Seouliteum (더서울라이티움; map).
Want a taste of the old neighborhood? Handmade Shoe Street (수제화거리; map) offers a parade of footwear craftspeople, who account for about 70% of Korea’s domestic shoe manufacturing.