Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cabrini Green and Hoengseong

Jun Ho Son

 Thanks to development of science and technology, most of mankind now lives in cities, the complex of modern technology. In cities, humans seem to remain in the light of convenience; they enjoy an abundant supply of staples and luxuries in shopping centers, appropriate medical care in hospitals near their homes, clean and safe water supplies, spacious and comfortable apartments, and proper crime prevention and enforcement if they live in well-developed areas. However, the light always casts shadow on some other places; if we do not live in such organized areas, we may merely envy people in those areas. Here, there are two views of the underdeveloped areas: views from an apartment in Cabrini-Green of Chicago, and views from a dormitory room in the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, one of the most prestigious schools in Korea. The observations from two different buildings illustrate two different solutions for the problems of imbalance.

 Cabrini-Green was well-known as one of the most notorious examples of public housing projects in the United states. Since it was built during World War 2, gangs have controlled most of the buildings and committed numerous crimes in there such as drug conspiracies, violence, and murders. Donna, one of the inhabitants in Cabrini-Green who appeared in the Highrise Project, testifies regarding the horrible security of the community; she has watched numerous people being shot, including herself and her son. When the past mayor of Chicago, Jane Byrne, began to live in Cabrini-Green to focus public attention on the area, but moved subsequently to another place just after three weeks, people confirmed Cabrini-Green as the mayorforsaken section of Chicago.

 However, to the inhabitants of Cabrini-Green, it was also a place of comfort. They aspired for radical changes in the community to eliminate gangs and crimes, yet they also valued Cabrini-Green for their neighbors in it. Donna also cherishes her relationships with neighbors; she laments their departures from where they lived. Despite such intimate relationships, those did not evolve in constant, passionate, and systematic cooperation for the safer and happier community.

 The state and federal government had been annoyed with Cabrini-Green due to its notoriety. In 1995 as many investors started to reevaluate the significance of the Cabrini-Green area and purchase lands in the region, the governments rediscovered its value and decided to raze most of the public housing that was built in the area, and proceed to reorganize the section into the complex of dwellings for the middle class. For the original residents, the government gave two options: to wait until their future houses in Cabrini-Green are rebuilt, or to move into other areas with financial support. Donna and the other dwellers in Cabrini-Green were therefore separated from their neighbors. Donna also kept struggling with her new neighbors, probably middle-class newcomers who refuse to accept relatively poor original inhabitants. The government successfully annihilated crimes and gangs in the area, but lost concern for the inhabitants and their life in the community.

 In Hoengseong, an opposite approach is in progress. Korean Minjok Leadership Academy(KMLA), one of the most prestigious schools in Korea, is probably the most ironical existence in Hoengseong. It is located among fields for farming, and emphasizes Korean traditions through uniforms and buildings in Korean traditional styles: This is all in a concentrated effort to contribute to the homeland. However, KMLA reflects not only the traditions of Korea, but also the polarization and unbalanced development of Korea. KMLA has approximately 500 students from at least upper-middle class families with few exceptions. Nearly two-thirds of the students are from Seoul and its satellite cities. In contrast, Hoengseong is a rural area famous for beef and ski resorts. It suffers from the typical problems of countryside life, such as lack of facilities and population ageing due to the departure of younger generations who seek education and jobs. In fact, KMLA, the school of the privileged, stands on the unprivileged soil of the nation.

 However, KMLA students and local inhabitants began a step toward harmony and development. One of the most notable examples is a tutoring program begun by kMLA students to assist students in Hoengseong. Originally started from a small group of KMLA students teaching in two elementary schools, the program now includes nearly 100 KMLA students and at least seven schools in Hoengseong. There were some conflicts at the start: KMLA students were accused of being lazy in their tutoring time, and an angry school principle protested to KMLA and terminated the program. However, through the incidents, KMLA students understand presence and importance of local community and its predicaments, and the local community once again felt the necessity of KMLA students to help them. Thus, the program was restarted soon. The program is now settled as the symbol of the cooperation between the local community and the school. Furthermore, it is recognized in other regions as an important program that seeks to improve school curriculums and facilities in rural areas.

 Other programs of cooperation include sports. Since KMLA has good facilities for sports and an active club activity system, they contribute to the local community by participating in amateur competitions as representatives of Hoengseong. Those clubs, such as Kendo, baseball, basketball and rowing clubs, have frequently won the first and second places. Thus, Hoengseong recognizes KMLA as an important school for the harmony and coexistence through amateur sports. Contributions of KMLA involve not only accomplishments in competition, but also friendly soccer and basketball matches with neighboring high schools.

 Throughout the world, the rapid development of cities and wealthy areas has triggered the relative retrograde of other areas. KMLA and Cabrini-Green suggest two different models for solving the problem of unbalanced developments. As for Cabrini-Green, the governments forced reorganization of the region of make original inhabitants and middle-class newcomers coexist within it. However, due to policies, many neighbors are separated and each of them struggle with the newcomers who have antipathy toward poor inhabitants. On the other hand, KMLA and Hoengseong have found ways for coexistence and improvement of the local community . The Views from two different regions suggest an important point about solving problems of regional polarization: is it right to fill lands with skyscrapers and apartments without sufficient human concern?

Source : Wikipedia : Cabrini-Green

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