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To our shame, we could not defend 'Casa del Agua'
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승인 2013.03.11  10:31:31
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Councilor Lee Sunhwa. Photo courtesy Lee Sunhwa

[Lee Sunhwa is a Councilor on Jeju Provincial Council - this is reprinted in translation from Media Jeju, 03/08/13]

In the end, we failed to protect it. The voices of those who asked me to save, at any cost, “The Gallery: Casa del Agua” remain vivid. Not only men and women, young and old alike, but people from all walks of life, including Professor Kim Hyun Don who is bedridden in his battle with cancer, pleaded with me to preserve this structure. [The failure to do so] is so shameful and disgraceful that no excuse or apology is sufficient.


On the day this architectural work was demolished, its destruction was the lead internet search topic. Countless angry netizens voiced their outcry, saying, “it should not have happened.” Casa del Agua was torn down by the claws of heavy machinery. I felt a great pain and tearing grief as if it was aimed at my heart. Just like that, it vanished into dust, defying all logic, the result of one developer's barbarous obsession with power and greed coupled with the local government's ignorance. The “House of Water” should have been standing before its intended Jeju backdrop of light, color, wind and sea. But it was gone.

Who is the owner of this House? It does not belong to the landlord, Booyoung, nor to the governor serving his fifth term. It is ours, not only the people of Jeju but also those who love Jeju Island and all lovers of culture. The voices against its removal extended beyond this island to cross the globe. However, we received the violence of heavy machinery in return. There was no hesitation, not even a hint of conscience, in the destruction.

This is not the whole story. Once again, the local government has thrust a dagger against those who opposed the demolition of this structure. The director-general in charge of this matter even admonished us in an article published on the day of the demolition in which he stated, “One cannot have everything that one might want and must accept second-best” rather than succumb to “human nature, a reckless idea, and popular consensus.” It is abhorrent to see those who are sworn to serve the citizens so blatantly ignoring public opinion.

This is a deeply shameful matter. During this time, there were no national assembly members, no provincial councilors, and no national authorities. This issue was raised [repeatedly] in the provincial council session, but was completely ignored; I cannot imagine how powerless ordinary citizens would be before this audacious and lawless authority.

March 6, 2013, will be remembered as the demise of Jeju architectural culture.

Casa del Agua was demolished following the destruction of both the former Jeju City Hall and original main building of Jeju National University. From now on, people will remember Jeju as an island lacking culture and its government as one of cultural destruction. Jeju's slogan, “The world comes to Jeju, Jeju goes to the world,” should be eliminated. Without an open mind and respect for the work of the world’s artists who are inspired by Jeju’s nature and beautiful vitality, the vision of Jeju as a “free international city” should be abandoned. It is just a game, counting the number of visitors to Jeju and supporting achievement-oriented policy with no respect for artists, nor any understanding of the importance of culture, regardless of its 10 million-plus visitors.

World-renowned photographer Kim Joong Man held an exhibition of his Casa del Agua photographs in Seoul, before the destruction. A photographic book about Jeju Island includes a preface by him in which he states that Jeju is “insanely trying to remove, destroy, demolish this House so beautifully designed by the architect....In my sadness and outrage, I said goodbye to it, knowing that I would never see it again.”

Now that we have lost the late Ricardo Legorreta’s work, we cannot gain or maintain the heart of foreigners to love Jeju. Where has Casa del Agua gone? The House of Water held a high value for tourism, alongside Jeju culture. In March, when apricot flowers are budding, when the spring of this arrogant administration is passing, Ricardo Legorreta, who died on Jeju a second time, is asking [this island] the question: Where are you going?

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