Cultural policy and collaboration in Seoul's Mullae art district


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The transition from an industrial to knowledge-based economy is impacting urban growth across Asia. Many cities now seek to lure educated professionals through arts and cultural amenities, with a common focus on disinvested neighborhoods. The underlying planning tactics often favor top-down intervention over multi-sectoral collaboration, marginalizing and displacing the politically weaker constituencies that give neighborhoods their authenticity. Many studies have examined the drivers and impacts of this process in Western contexts, but further research is needed to understand collaborative governance for urban art districts in neoliberal contexts. Mullae, an artist-originated district in Seoul, illustrates collaboration between civil society and local government in such a context. Based on in-depth interviews, document analysis, and observational research, this study examines tensions among parties participating in and affected by urban development in art districts. Empirical findings are interpreted through a framework that focuses on three dialectics: economy, policy, and culture. Government overtures to collaboration are found to provide only limited avenues of policy influence among artists. This suggests the need for further research about the role of neoliberal forces in replicating elite place-building power structures, which remain at theoretical and practical odds with the concept of collaborative governance. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-188
Early online dateNov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


Hartley, K. (2018). Cultural policy and collaboration in Seoul's Mullae art district. Geoforum, 97, 177-188. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.11.002


  • Cultural districts
  • Urban growth
  • Developmentalism
  • Neoliberalism
  • Asia


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