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Build-Out: Multiscalar Spatial Fixes and the Evolution of Korean Cities and Construction Industry

Tue, Feb 2, 2016    1pm

Cuz Potter, Assistant Professor of International Development and Cooperation at Korea University’s Division of International Studies

Korea’s fabled rise from one of the world’s poorest nations to one of the richest in a mere five decades is well known. One component of this growth has been massive, unceasing construction of housing and infrastructure, including the construction of entire cities de novo. This presentation will argue that Korea’s feverish urban development since the 1970s has been driven by international and domestic accumulation crises and that its particular form was a response to a legitimation crisis. First, the Korean construction industry was assembled to build infrastructure and housing outside the country in the Middle East, which was experiencing surplus accumulation due to the 1970s oil crises. Second, when the oil crisis passed and orders from the Middle East dried up, Korea adopted a domestic spatial fix to address organizational accumulation in the construction industry through the large-scale construction of middle-class housing. This particular form the spatial fix was a response to the legitimation crisis that led to democratization in 1987. Finally, the presentation will show that Korea has now built itself out and is again turning outward to sustain the construction industry assemblage.

Cuz Potter (Columbia University, MSUP, MIA, PhD) is currently assistant professor of international development and cooperation at Korea University’s Division of International Studies. Past research has focused on social justice in developing and implementing infrastructure services, particularly in regard to how technological change in the logistics industry has undermined the territorial foundation of port policy in the US. Current research interests include the role of Korean construction in developing countries and the importance of utopian visioning. He has also coauthored work on Nairobi’s slums for the World Bank, on US urban revitalization for the Korean government, urban entrepreneurialism in China, and on industrial districts. He is a co­editor of and contributor to Searching for the Just City, an interrogation of Susan Fainstein’s concept of the Just City. He has consulted for a number of firms and organizations in New York City and Seoul and spent three years editing and translating for the Korean Ministries of Environment and Labor.