South Korea evacuates 500 people due to a fire in the Gangnam slum

A massive fire ripped through one of the remaining slums in the South Korean capital on Friday, authorities said, forcing 500 people to flee their homes ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays.

A video posted online showed flames burning in the village of Koryeong, a shantytown in the shadows of the luxury high-rises in Seoul’s Gangnam district, made famous by rapper Psy’s song “Gangnam Style.”

The fire, which started around 6:30 a.m., is believed to have burned about 60 homes, but was put out by around noon, according to authorities.

There were no casualties

They added that no injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown.

“We are considering further investigation into the case,” Choi Jae-young, an official at the capital’s Seoul Fire and Disaster Headquarters, told AFP.

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Residents said they were not surprised by the fire.

“There were a lot of safety concerns in the community when it came to the fire, and it didn’t seem to be properly acknowledged” by the authorities, Lee Won-chul, 65, who has lived in the village for 30 years, told AFP. .

The houses are very old, the electrical wiring is dangerous, and the management is poor. He said that sparks inside homes were common.

The Seoul district office of Gangnam, the local authority that oversees the district, told AFP that since 2012 the village has been hit by at least eight fires.

The settlement was formed around 1988 by squatters who had been evacuated from other areas of Seoul in the nation’s quest to develop its capital in advance of hosting the Olympic Games.

There were about 550 families left in Guryong as of last year, according to data from the state-run Seoul Housing and Communities Authority, and many are believed to be living with little or no proper sanitation.

The village is as remote as possible from the glamorous, opulent world of Gangnam – an upscale area known for its boutiques and luxury apartments.

Social inequality in South Korea

South Korea is trying to tackle social inequality and last year moved to ban the cramped basement apartments made famous by the Oscar-winning film Parasite after four people drowned in their underground homes during floods.

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“There have been many fires in the past, but this is the first time that houses have actually burned,” Lee told AFP.

“I am not sure if those who lost their homes will be allowed to build again, as the buildings were unlicensed shacks to begin with.”

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