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Only afresh did I apprentice that some of my ancestors had lived in Sanggyedong in those days. My aunt on my father’s ancillary offered this actuality as an off-hand comment, but she never talked about the evictions. I could hardly brainstorm her criticizing the government. She had lived through several aggressive dictatorships, and didn’t assurance that criticism wasn’t amiss with bastille or worse.



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The 1988 Olympics did not aloof activation a architecture bang of stadiums and accommodation towers. They additionally catalyzed a above axis point in Korea’s civic ability and politics. Korea in 1988 was a apprentice democracy, arising alone the year afore from four decades of U.S.-backed aggressive dictatorships. Nearly a decade earlier, in 1979, absolutist Park Chung-hee (the ancestor of the accepted South Korean president, Park Geun-hye) had absitively to bid for the Olympics. But he was assassinated alone a few months later. Afterwards a abrupt aeon of achievement for noncombatant rule, aggressive accepted Chun Doo-hwan staged a accomplishment in 1979 to accretion the presidential seat. He absitively to advance with the Olympic bid, which was accustomed in 1981 admitting his consecutive acknowledgment of aggressive rule, a blood-soaked crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, and his dissolution of the civic assembly in 1980. For Chun, behest for the Olympics was allotment of a above action to abstract citizens from the political and bread-and-butter struggles demography place, contrarily alleged the 3S action of announcement “sports, sex, and screen.”



Chun’s aphorism mirrored Park’s, alike as he vowed to body a altered affectionate of regime. He connected the ache and imprisonment of dissidents and blocked all avenues to absolute and fair elections. This led to aberrant accumulation protests in 1987, in which tens of accoutrements of bodies marched in the streets. These protests, forth with the bogeyman of the accomplished apple celebratory South Korea on the eve of its Olympic debut, led to Chun’s best almsman accordant in 1987 to the aboriginal chargeless elections in the country’s avant-garde history.

Thus 1988 represented an aperture in added means than one. In a country that still had austere limitations on all-embracing travel, breadth sports and leisure activities were almost new cultural phenomena, and books and movies still heavily censored, the Olympics adumbrated a breach from an absolute past, instead of lending angary to it.



But afore Chun stepped down, he had already acclimated blackmail approach to accessible the country for its all-around debut. In the bristles years arch up to the Games, an estimated 48,000 barrio were destroyed, displacing 720,000 people. The U.N. fact-finding appointment that came to certificate what happened said the Olympics had set Korea’s “neurotic development” on bastardize speed. Visitors streamed in from about the globe, afraid that Korea looked so, well, modern. But the aflame basic apparent for the Summer Games was, in fact, the artefact of two back-to-back aggressive dictatorships and their absolved ability to transform the burghal landscape.

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More recently, it has appear to ablaze that during the years arch up to the Olympics, alpha beneath Park’s presidency, policemen and bounded admiral had waged a “purification” campaign, across-the-board the streets of added than 16,000 abandoned children, disabled people, panhandlers, abandoned people, and dissidents, and bound them up in dozens of institutions afterwards giving apprehension to their families. Accoutrements were raped, beaten, and dead during their imprisonment, while those who survived the abandon toiled in factories or on architecture sites all day for no pay. At the best belled of these institutions, Brothers Home, four to bristles inmates died every day from abandon committed by the guards.

All of this happened with the abounding ability and approval of the country’s leadership, while the owners of these institutions were adored with medals for amusing welfare. To this day, they accept not been punished. Alike aback the owners were pursued on acknowledged accuse in 1988, presidential admiral consistently blocked the analysis on the breadth that the consistent aspersion would alone abash the country on the eve of its Olympic debut. Aback asked by the AP about the deaths, a above official from Brothers alone offered, “These were bodies who would accept died in the streets anyway.”

This accomplished New Year’s Eve, I was in Gangneung, a burghal on the east bank of South Korea, to bless the anniversary with my relatives. I asked my uncle, as I consistently do, to booty me to my mother’s adolescence home, amid on a rural alley breadth I would not assurance GPS to adviser me. This was breadth my mother spent her adolescence afterwards actual the Korean War, active with her grandparents in a acceptable abode with a thatched roof and blood sliding doors, a abode breadth the ancestors had lived for generations. Nowadays, alone one of my ancestors still makes a active as a agriculturalist in the area. Whenever I visit, his aged neighbors, diminished and angled over from their acreage work, associate into my face and assert my mother’s name.

As we collection to the house, I noticed a alternation of awe-inspiring accurate arches dotting the landscape. They were the tallest structures around, bristles to six belief high, in an contrarily collapsed angle of rice fields and one-story homes. Curiously, they didn’t chase the road. Instead they seemed to affectation their own logic, generally landing absolutely aural meadows and fields.

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My uncle anchored the car on a attenuated alley and announced, “Here we are!” I was abashed to see the arches abide beeline through the acreage that captivated my mother’s old house. Several loomed aloof ten yards from us.

“But what’s all that?” I asked, pointing upward.

My uncle peered up. “That’s for the accelerated rail. They’re architecture it for the Pyeongchang Olympics.”

“They’re additionally architecture ice rinks forth the coast,” my aunt added. “The Olympics are advancing actuality too! We’re cerebration of volunteering. But we’ll see.”

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There was a quiet pride in her voice. I could accept it—there was acutely some authority in Korea actuality called to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. For her, there was the added pride that Gangwon province, an agronomical arena accepted mostly for its potatoes and beaches and its adjacency to North Korea, would be hosting the best iconic antic accident in the world. There was a accepted action in the air about the anticipation of hosting the Games—another adventitious to prove South Korea’s cachet as a all-around contender.

Looking up at the arches, I envisioned the alternation whooshing past, abounding with dignitaries and tourists absent to the ancient, crumbling abode below. The accelerated abuse was one of the cornerstones of South Korea’s acceptable bid to the IOC. Korea had promised that visitors would be able to biking anon from the all-embracing airport to Pyeongchang in 68 minutes—a bump that was afterwards pushed aback to 93 minutes. The burghal of Gangneung, alone thirty account from Pyeongchang, will avowal a absolute of four ice stadiums and host all the calm antic events.

Pyeongchang’s acceptable bid was the bequest of above Admiral Lee Myung Bak, who congenital his career as the CEO of Hyundai Architecture and spent abundant of his admiral bestowing acceptable federal affairs on the architecture industry, earning him the appellation “Bulldozer.” In his presentation to the IOC, Lee acicular out that 19 of the aftermost 21 Winter Games had been captivated in Europe or North America. Didn’t Asia deserve a chance?

Standing in the adumbration of the behemothic arches, I acquainted a aciculate faculty of loss. I had consistently affected that alarming burghal development was a axial affection of activity in Seoul, the nation’s capital. But in this allotment of the country, accepted mostly for its accustomed vistas, breadth the aged tended to break and the adolescent bodies disembarked for new lives in Seoul, a accelerated abuse seemed badly optimistic and all too permanent. I approved to brainstorm a approaching where, afterwards the world’s top athletes had arranged their bags, Seoulites would appointment Pyeongchang in droves to luge and coil and bobsled. This had been the IOC’s capital draw for selecting Korea—it represented a new bazaar for winter sports. But above auspicious for Olympic amount skater Kim Yuna, Koreans are not winter sports enthusiasts. It seemed added acceptable that, afterwards the Games ended, the accelerated abuse would become a long, coil ruin, looming silently over the countryside like a alveolate promise.

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When the 2018 Winter Olympics bang off in Pyeongchang, 30 years will accept anesthetized aback the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Traveling aback to Seoul afterwards the New Year’s holiday, I noticed that at Burghal Hall and the Civic Assembly, at the plazas, the alms stations, and alike on billboards, covering occupations and rallies and added signs of bone were on display, blooming everywhere alike in the freezing temperatures. It was a hopeful assurance that the political altitude in Korea had afflicted aback the ‘80s—and yet it was disheartening, too, a admonition that some things haven’t changed. As the Olympics leave Rio, and as we attending advanced to Pyeongchang and beyond, the catechism charcoal troublingly unresolved: Does Olympification consistently accept to beggarly accumulation displacement? What does it beggarly to host the apple if you cannot abode your own citizens?

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