South Korea’s Banjihas
South Korea, a country located in East Asia, has a population of almost 52 million residents. Since the 1960s, South Korea has grown economically, shifting from a poor agrarian society to one of the most industrialized nations in the world. However, there is still a division gap between the rich and the poor.

While the economic growth has rapidly expanded urban areas, like Seoul and Pusan, which promoted the construction of apartments, poor people still live in semi-basement homes called Banjiha.

What are Banjihas?

Banjihas are semi-basement apartments that exist throughout South Korea. Typically, young people end up living in these lower-rent apartments while climbing the work ladder. In addition, lower-class citizens often live in these homes.

South Korea’s Banjihas initially emerged to protect the citizens from the war with North Korea in 1953 by acting as bunkers. The law required these bunkers during this era. Due to the bunker-style construction, South Korea’s Banjihas are roughly five to seven steps below the street level. As time went by, South Korea eased construction laws and permitted Banjihas to act as actual homes after the 1980 housing crisis. These converted bunkers only allow minimal light from a small window; due to the underground nature and minimal airflow, there is often mold in these tiny spaces.

The film “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho illustrates life in South Korea’s Banjihas and demonstrates the wealth disparity throughout the nation. It portrays the struggles of lower-class life in Banjihas, while the upper class lives in luxurious mansions.

According to the BBC, South Korea’s Banjihas are inexpensive housing options starting from 540,000 won ($453 U.S.). Typically, the minimum monthly wage of a person in South Korea starts at 1.8 million won ($1,500), making Banjihas smart financial decisions. Banjihas exist as homes for almost 364,000 families in South Korea, accounting for 1.9% of the nation, according to a 2015 survey by the Korean Statistical Information Services.

Living in Banjihas

Haebangchon is one of the oldest neighborhoods in South Seoul; the neighborhood used to be a shooting field for the 20th division of the Japanese Army. With time, it became the epicenter for refugees and home to non-citizens from all parts of the world.

With the diversity that Haebangchon, also known as the Liberation Village, brings, new shops and restaurants pop all the time. New flavors and experiences from unknown parts of the world are available for consumers.

However, a decent amount of the population in Haebangchon still lives in Banjihas. The converted bunkers carry a stigma in that people immediately consider those living in Banjihas as poor. Bong stated at the Cannes Festival that a “Banjiha is a space with a peculiar connotation… It’s undeniably underground, and yet [you] want to believe it’s above ground.”

South Korea’s Banjihas not only represent a state of poverty, but they also represent the substantial social divide in South Korea. The higher a person lives in an apartment building, the higher social status that people add to that individual’s persona.

The tiny space takes on a distinct smell from the dampness and mold. That smell tends to linger within the walls, floors, bedding sheets and even clothing. One can compare South Korea’s Banjihas to Favelas in Brazil and cage homes in Hong Kong. Further, Banjihas are the most affected spaces during floods because of the low level. Sewage will clog and add to the stench throughout the home.

In a Los Angeles Times article, South Korean poet Shin-Hyum-rim wrote a poem about living in a Banjiha titled “The Happiness of Banjiha Alice,” alluding to Alice’s emotions while in Wonderland. This poem effectively outlines how tolling desperation and stress can be on a person’s psyche.

The Good News

Although 62% of South Korea’s Banjihas exist in Seoul, the number of this type of housing is declining. Since South Korea enacted a law in 2003 requiring park spacing, the building of Banjihas has become almost impossible. Additionally, there has been a growing rush for urban redevelopment and the country is tearing down old buildings.

According to a census from Statistics Korea, the number of semi-basement homes in South Korea accounted for only 1.9% in 2015 in comparison to 3.69% in 2005.

Further, there are several non-governmental organizations, such as the Federation for Evicted People of Seoul (FEPS) and the Korean National Association of the Urban poor, that are focusing on helping low-income areas with housing difficulties. These NGOs work to secure housing and advocate for tenants who the government has evicted.

Interestingly, the younger generations are bringing change to life in South Korea’s Banjihas. When looking up #Banjiha on social media, many young people living in the apartments are reinventing what living in a Banjiha looks like. Many of these younger individuals are aiming to end the impoverished stigma around living in Banjihas.

Even though this is not the reality for many who struggle financially, both young and old citizens of South Korea are fighting for a better life, in hopes that with new construction laws and with the cooperation of NGOs and their government, South Korea’s Banjihas will be a symbolic memory of the past.

Merlina San Nicolás Leyva
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Bhutan
The curious case of Bhutan has puzzled social and economic scholars for decades. In 1972, the king of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, declared that Gross National Happiness (GNH) was more important than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is the first and only country in the world to use GNH as a measure of socio-economic development rather than GDP. Bhutan conducts measurements by evaluating nine domains.

Nine Domains of Gross National Happiness:

  • Psychological Well-being
  • Health
  • Education
  • Time Use
  • Cultural Diversity and Resilience
  • Good Governance
  • Community Vitality
  • Living Standards
  • Ecological Diversity and Resilience

The last domain listed above (Ecological Diversity and Resilience) has been the cornerstone of Bhutanese Buddhist ideology for centuries. As such, the Bhutanese government has devoted a large portion of its policy agenda toward the conservation of native wildlife. It is the only country in Asia to have over 50 percent of its natural land guaranteed preservation at all times under its constitution. However, with the recent democratization of the country in 2007 and the subsequent onset of globalization, the young generation that makes up over 60 percent of the population would rather “spend time in front of televisions… instead of at the Buddhist temples or in the forests.”

Youth and Urbanization

The more technological interests of the new generation have sparked concern among the traditional older generation in Bhutan. The youth are moving to the cities in droves and will likely live their lives more disconnected from nature and religion than previous generations. As of 2017, 48.7 percent of the population born in rural areas had migrated to cities in search of education, jobs and a more modern lifestyle. Most of these domestic migrants are between the ages of 25 and 29.

Some expect more rapid urbanization to take place due to this large and sudden influx of people to Bhutanese cities. If the rate of movement remains consistent, Bhutan will have to more than double the amount of land available for urban expansion to have adequate housing to accommodate the influx. Along with housing, Bhutan will also have to expand sanitation facilities, electrical infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, public transit and education facilities. These are factors that many Southeast Asian countries have struggled to expand sustainably. However, this does not mean that environmental factors will become obsolete in order to make these developments.

 Tourism in Bhutan

Tourism is one of Bhutan’s largest industries and it is still growing. According to the Bhutan Tourism Monitor from 2016 to 2017, the country experienced a 22 percent growth in tourist arrivals. Tourism generally sparks an increase in globalization in countries that have largely disconnected from international developments, such as modernization, especially among the youth. As tourism ramps up, cities begin to develop more to entice and accommodate additional tourists. This also creates more jobs and draws in domestic migrants from the countryside, just as Bhutan is experiencing now. However, the cities are not the only attraction for tourists. Tourism in Bhutan consists mainly of ecotourism – people want to experience the beauty of Bhutan’s preserved countryside. Tourism in Bhutan is prompting greater urbanization and interest in modern amenities among the youth; however, it also emphasizes the importance of environmental preservation to Bhutan’s economy.

 Improvements in Rural Communities 

Bhutan has implemented the Remote Rural Communities Development Project (RRCDP) in order to lessen the negative impacts of the youth’s migration to cities. This project “promotes the increase of agricultural productivity development of communities’ access to markets, irrigation, agricultural technologies and community infrastructure” in Bhutan’s six most remote districts. Completed in May 2018, this project has provided roads to communities that have never had them before. The roads give these communities better access to health facilities, schools and markets. Farmers are now able to use trucks to transport their goods rather than walking for days to the nearest market. This development has also contributed to the empowerment of women as a byproduct. Some women, who have never been able to make a single-day trip to the market, are even learning how to drive.

Placing greater importance on the accessibility of rural communities may be a solution to the drain of the countryside. By providing access to more modern comforts like roads and markets, the youth may be less hasty to move to the city. Greater access to these communities also helps tourism in Bhutan and creates more jobs in the countryside. The country is building more retreats and farms are expanding the variety of crops. Nonprofits like the World Wildlife Fund are working with the Bhutanese government to better fund advertising for tourism in Bhutan and make it easier for tourists to access the countryside.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Pixabay

Urbanization in Nepal
Nepal is located in South Asia with a population of roughly 29 million people. It is currently one of the 10 least urbanized countries in the world with approximately less than 20 percent of the nation being urbanized. However, at the same time, it is also one of the 10 fastest urbanizing countries not only in the Asia Pacific region but in the world. Here are six quick facts about urbanization in Nepal over recent years.

6 Facts About Urbanization in Nepal

  1. A natural population increase is one of the primary reasons for the gradual transition from rural to urbanization. Natural population increase occurs when the infant mortality rate decreases and when people bear more healthy children. It can also occur as more people move from small villages to bigger cities.

  2. People in predominantly rural countries, such as Nepal, are choosing to move to more urban areas for many different reasons. For example, wars may force many to move to places with better access to food, water and shelter for the safety of themselves and their families.

  3. Towns and rural areas in Nepal are seeing urbanization increase between 5 and 7 percent each year. This is even more than the country’s capital, Kathmandu, with a 4 percent increase every year, and Pokhara, with a growing urbanization rate of 5 percent per year.

  4. The most populated urban region of the country is Kathmandu Valley, consisting of 24 percent of Nepal’s urban population. In addition, Kathmandu Metropolitan City consists of 9.7 percent of the urban population.

  5. There are three classifications of ecological regions in Nepal. Of them, the hill region has the highest percentage of urbanization at 21.7 percent, followed by the Terai region at 15.1 percent and the mountain region at 2.8 percent.

  6. While the push for urbanization comes with benefits in efforts to create a higher standard of living for people, it is not without challenges. For example, slums populate many urban cities, which have very low-quality living conditions. Overcrowding, limited sanitation and limited access to clean water cause these poor conditions. This results in people having to use open sewers to use the bathroom, leading to other issues.

With urbanization becoming a more common trend worldwide, it can be easy to understand why the concept is appealing to many people who are from traditionally urban nations such as Nepal. The push to urbanize developing nations has positive intentions to not only help the individual citizens but to build countries’ economies so they can be a world power. However, it is also imperative that the country makes efforts to ensure that its citizens in more urbanized regions have access to adequate living conditions, as the act of urbanization alone does not guarantee this.

As demonstrated, many cities, such as the ones that have been recently urbanized in Nepal, lack clean sewage, acceptable air quality and proper shelter. In order to create a prosperous metropolis where Nepalese people can enjoy a high quality of life, people must take all these factors into account.

– A. O’Shea
Photo: Pixabay

 

improvingsierraleonesurbanmobilitySierra Leone is a country in Western Africa that borders the North Atlantic Ocean. It contains four pronounced physical regions: the coastal swamp, the Sierra Leone Peninsula, the interior plains and the interior plateau and mountain region. Currently, about 62 percent of people in Sierra Leone live in a rural area. These villages center most of their economic activity around rice farming while Sierra Leone as a country obtains most of its economic growth through mining, primarily iron ore. By improving Sierra Leone’s urban mobility, the country will be able to increase its economy.

Many of these villages, as well as the country itself, are still recovering from the civil war that dismantled many of their institutions. In the 1980s, the government of Sierra Leone initiated a program to modernize their road system, which had been used as a railway until 1975. However, the new road system was also a victim of the aforementioned civil war. Organizations like the World Bank are improving Sierra Leone’s urban mobility by improving infrastructure.

The Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project

On June 13, 2019, The World Bank introduced the Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project for Sierra Leone. Their objectives are to “improve quality public transport, address climate resilience, improve road safety in selected areas and enhance institutional capacity in the transport sector.” The Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project is comprised of five main sections:

  1. Modernization and Professionalization of Public Transport Services: This section will “focus on Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) in the sector”: This section will include a bus fleet renewal scheme with private operators in order to make improvements upon the current informal operator system as well as a bus to school program. The World Bank will be providing technical assistance to strengthen the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation, improve capacity building and training for transport operators and install ancillary facilities.
  2. Strategic Resilient Mobility Investments: These investments will be used to “improve access, climate resilience and road safety.” With this section, the World Bank hopes to improve the connection to international markets and the ferry for pedestrians and vehicles. It also plans to improve road conditions, drainage capacity, traffic management, signalization, parking and more while taking into account the country’s strategic city plans.
  3. Building Human Capital and Institutional Capacity: Here, the aim is “to promote public transport reform and operationalize the MFD agenda.” This section focuses on enhancing logistics and strategies for the country in the long term. The World Bank plans to improve road safety and road safety databases, enhance climate resilience by assisting pre-existing sectors as well as improve academic capacity, women’s empowerment and citizen engagement.
  4. Project Management: This sector aims to improve funding for “goods and services to support project management, financial auditing, data collection, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and operating cost.” This section will also aid in refining project management, social and environmental safeguards, grievance redress mechanisms, response to sexual exploitation and abuse efforts and mitigation of gender gaps.
  5. Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC): CERC will “enable the rapid reallocation of funding among project components following an emergency.” With a CERC, the World Banks hopes to strengthen disaster preparedness, both natural and manmade, and strengthen the response to conflicts, epidemics and economic shocks.

The Freetown Urban Transport Authority

One way to improve urban mobility in Sierra Leone is by improving infrastructure in the country’s capital, Freetown. The World Bank is working with Adam Smith International, an award-winning global company that specializes in the delivery of projects that improve economic growth and government reform initiatives. They created a six-month project in line with the current Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project, which will improve urban mobility.

Together, they developed a fully integrated mobility plan that updates regulation and planning in the urban center of Goderich and Hastings. It will work to create the Freetown Urban Transport Authority. They are working to rebuild and refurbish new and existing infrastructure to make it more sustainable and improve the roads in Freetown, the Capital of Sierra Leone.

As a country with an initially weak infrastructure and poor economy, Sierra Leone has struggled to adapt its foundation to modern needs. As a country with a higher percentage of rural areas than urban, Sierra Leone has had trouble with their transportation system. However, organizations such as the World Bank and Adam Smith International are working towards improving Sierra Leone’s urban mobility in order to provide more functional and safer streets and easier access to economic and travel centers.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

The 10 Most Overpopulated Cites In The World 
Overpopulation begets poverty. When a city is overpopulated, the ratio of available resources to the number of people sharply decreases. There simply is not enough to go around, because there are too many people for whom goods, services and economies such as food, water, shelter, health care and opportunities are available.

Below is a list of the 10 most overpopulated cities in the world. This list was compiled according to Demographia World Urban Areas and is based upon a study of 1,758 urban areas.

The 10 Most Overpopulated Cites In The World

10. Malegaon, India

Population: 720,000. Population density per square kilometer: 23,200. Malegaon is a city and Municipal Corporation in the Indian state of Maharashtra, nestled within the Nashik District. A series of bombings shook the land in 2006, but the country has since been able to retain peace in the land.

9. Vijayawada, India

Population: 1,900,000. Population density per square kilometer: 23,700. Vijayawada, which translates to “the Place of Victory,” is a city of nearly two million people located on the banks of the Krishna River. It is considered a major transportation hub and is known for being a significant location for Buddhist and Hindu ritual.

8. Tshikapa, The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Population: 810,000. Population density per square kilometer: 24,100. A city of Tshikapa is located roughly 30 miles north of the border with Angola. It is perhaps best known as a terrain fertile for diamonds. Since the first diamond was discovered on the land in 1907, diamond mining and exploitation have been the focus of the Tshikapa economy.

7. Hong Kong, China

Population: 7,380,000. Population density per square kilometer: 25,900. Being the Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong is the seventh most overpopulated city in the world, and perhaps one of the most familiar on the list. This is one of the most economically powerful cities in the world and it seemingly has something for everyone.

6. Macau, China

Population: 675,000- Population density per square kilometer: 26,100. Under Chinese sovereignty for 20 years, Macau was formerly under Portuguese control from 1557 up to 1999. Now a Special Administrative Region of China, Macau is known for its elaborate entertainment industry, so much so that it has come to be dubbed the “Las Vegas of Asia.”

5. Mumbai, India

Population: 23,260,000 million. Population density per square kilometer: 26,400. India’s largest city Mumbai is often considered among the major cities of the world. It is at the heart of India’s financial and commercial interests, built upon the site of an ancient settlement. Mumbai, formerly Bombay, also has the distinction of being the home of Bollywood.

4. Surat, India

Population: 6,200,000. Population density per square kilometer: 26,600. The eighth largest city in India and one of the world’s most rapidly growing cities, Surat plays a key role in the country’s textile industry.

3. Al-Raqqa, Syria

Population: 845,000. Population density per square kilometer: 27,200. Al-Raqqa, nestled along the Euphrates River, was an important city even in distant past, during the Abbasid dynasty (786-908 CE). Of recent, the city was prominence as the de facto headquarters of ISIS in their brief conquest of the land, but with ISIS overthrown, so too was this notoriety.

2. Mogadishu, Somalia

Population: 2,600,000. Population density per square kilometer: 28,600. The capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, has been considered one of the foremost ports of the world for thousands of years.

1. Dhaka, Bangladesh

Population: 17,400,000. Population density per square kilometer: 47,400. Dhaka, the most overpopulated city in the world and the capital of Bangladesh is known for its culture and education. It is also known for ornate architecture from its history as a prominent region in Muslim rule during the 17th century

These 10 most overpopulated cities in the world share many challenges, including a lack of resources and high poverty levels. However, with the unrelenting work of the international community, overpopulation is a problem predicted to end (with the current projections of global population peak in 2070 followed by a long-term decrease).

Lacy Rab
Photo: Flickr