Seoul is estimated to have around 270,000 people working directly in manufacturing.[i] It is a small percentage of the working force of Seoul and is not significantly larger than employment figures of a similar size metropolis such as London. What is peculiar with Seoul is that significant manufacturing sectors still exist in its central areas. If most of the world’s major metropolises have agglomerated into centers of business and consumption, historical Seoul sustains a complex ecology of traditional and cutting edge production.These areas include the fashion and garment districts of the Dongdaemun and Changsin-dong area and the electronics, printing, and machinery clusters of the Euljiro-Sewoon Sangga area, all key sites of the Seoul Biennale. The historical background to this condition lies in the fact that Seoul’s industrialization, led by national economic policy, came late in the twentieth century; peaking around the mid-1960s, a moment when most major cities in Europe and the United States had already lost most of its manufacturing functions. Zoning was a key mechanism for managing and controlling the different functions of Seoul, and presently the semi-industrial zones still partake5% of the land area of Seoul.

[i]Bong Choi, Mook-Han Kim, and Jai-Ho Kim, Current State and Future Outlook of Geographical Concentrations of Small-sized Manufacturing Enterprises in Seoul (Seoul: Seoul Institute, 2014).

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) and Donuimun Museum Village located in the city center of Seoul are the two main venues of the Seoul Biennale. These two contrasting sites are witnesses that present urban regeneration of Seoul and its past urban patterns.

A map of the historical city center of Seoul, 1846–49: two dots indicate Donuimun (left) and Heunginjimun (right), where the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is located today.

Donuimun Museum Village & DDP

There are a wide range of venues and types of spaces for the Seoul Biennale. Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), designed by Zaha Hadid, is located around the historical East Gate and provides a vast state-of-the-art interior gallery space. Donuimun Museum Village is located around the historical West Gate and comprised of its complex fabric of small urban hanok houses, stores, and back alleys. New cultural platforms will be established to engage in the future of Seoul and cities around the world. The Seoul Biennale engages with a variety of sites where actual municipal projects are realized. Several key projects in Seoul are strategically selected as on-site projects that are connected with the exhibitions at DDP and Donuimun Museum Village.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
Donuimun Museum Village