Seongsu in Seoul has been at the forefront of gentrification the past few years. This area was the backbone of the Korean shoe industry, with over 1000 shoe factories crammed in this small neighborhood at its peak. However, with the IMF Financial Crisis of 1997 that put the Korean economy in shambles, as well as cheaper mass-produced Chinese shoes flooding the market, many shoe factories went out of business; opening the door for young artists to come into old factory buildings to use as their studio. Then cafes thought large shoe factory buildings were perfect for their business too, especially with all these artists around – and the rest is gentrification history…
Thankfully there are still 250 shoe factories remaining in Seongsu that keep its history alive. Almost all of these factories make shoes completely by hand with pride and tradition in their crafts, hence this part of town has been nicknamed ‘성수동 수제화 거리’ or ‘Seongsu-Dong Handmade Shoe Street’.
What’s more, we had the amazing opportunity to see and document one of these craftsmen create a shoe from complete scratch. While the video is only around 5 minutes long, it’s very much condensed. The whole process took about 1.5 hours in its entirety, and they said they still weren’t done!
Checkout these shoes made in Seongsu: