“Parasite”-Style Basement Apartments Finally Set To Be Banned In South Korea
Following horrific floods across Seoul last summer, in which a family passed away while trapped in a basement apartment, the local government is finally putting plans in motion to ban the unsafe housing of Parasite infamy.
Seoul suffered the heaviest rainfall in 80 years back in August of last year. The flooding was so destructive, it caused several power outages in areas like Gangnam and Incheon.
Citizens of Seoul took to online platforms to share pictures of their experience — showing submerged cars, flooded stores, subway stations, and homes. Unfortunately, the floods were so severe that 2,800 buildings were damaged, 163 people were made homeless and 14 lost their lives.
Korean netizens shared their condolences in droves online, but one story, in particular, became the subject of worldwide scrutiny. According to the BBC, “two sisters in their 40s and a 13-year-old girl were found dead in their flooded semi-basement flat.” The apartments, known as banjiha, have recently become familiar to many as a result of Bong Joon Ho‘s Oscar-winning movie Parasite.
The movie featured a similar disaster in which the main character’s family banjiha was completely flooded and destroyed during a downpour. Unfortunately, this living situation is more than fiction. As of last year, 348,000 households in Seoul reside in such apartments.
The uproar from Korean and international netizens alike soon triggered a reaction from Seoul officials, who committed to revising the building laws and banning underground housing.
Underground and semi-underground housing threatens the vulnerable in all aspects…
— Seoul Mayor Oh Se Hoon via Yonhap
Now, the change is finally being set in motion. A report released by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport last Wednesday proposes new laws to improve disaster response amid climate change.
The flooding scene from Parasite was even highlighted in the plans, reports the Korea JoongAng Daily.
The new construction law is set to be amended soon, and if done so in accordance with the government’s plans, the ban will no longer allow the construction of underground apartments. The only exception will be special cases where buildings are at low risk of flooding or built on slopes.
After many lamented that some families have no choice but to live in the dangerous-yet-affordable banhija, the Ministry also announced that they plan to carry out the new laws gradually, keeping low-income households’ few alternatives in mind.
But what about the existing underground apartments? The Seoul government has a plan for them too. Once the apartments are vacated and families are moved to safer housing, the report shares that the government will buy these spaces and remodel them into community facilities.