White Elephant Apartment in Seoul Produces a Mountain of Trash

With re-development looking less likely, one of the fanciest apartments in Seoul finally decided to clean out its basement after 40 years.

Video: MBC News Desk report on Eunma Apartments trash.  Credit: MBC News.

Located in the posh neighborhood of Daechi-dong 대치동 in Seoul’s Gangnam-gu District 강남구, Eunma Apartments 은마아파트 is one of the most infamous white elephant real estate projects of Seoul. Constructed in 1979 as one of Seoul’s first condominium complexes, the building is now outdated and decrepit. But because of its prime location and the expectations for a re-development that would significantly increase its value, even a small unit in the size of 84 square meters (904 square feet) fetches nearly KRW 2.5b (USD 2.2m).

On June 29, for the first time in more than four decades, the Eunma complex began cleaning out its basement filled with old furniture and other trash that the previous residents had left behind. The workers estimate the 31 buildings in the complex collectively hold more than 2.3k tons of trash; it will cost more than KRW 350m (USD 306k) to haul the rotting junk.

The residents had ignored the trash mountain underneath their buildings as they expected their buildings to be demolished and re-developed soon. But the soaring real estate prices ironically made the re-development less likely, as the project became too expensive for construction companies to take on. With no re-development immediately on the horizon, the residents finally decided they could no longer stand the stench.

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