From The Design Observer Group:
When I first heard of Paju Bookcity, I imagined a wondrous bibliophilic paradise of human-scaled buildings with legible facades nestled side-by-side like volumes on a shelf. I pictured folks strolling down the sidewalk with their faces buried in thick novels, soft sunlight for reading, a light breeze that flutters pages and carries the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
When I traveled to the real Paju Bookcity, I found something else: it’s an industrial estate created for and by companies related to all aspects of book manufacturing — publishers, printers, distributors — sited a half-hour drive north of Seoul, in the marshes next to a highway near the Korean Demilitarized Zone. But if Bookcity is not the fairy tale I envisioned, it is a kind of Cinderella story: this is the industrial park remade.
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Throughout history, in fact, there have been cities dedicated to books; Jianyang, Leipzig, Lyon and Boston, among others, have served as important publishing centers, and since the 1960s the International Organization of Book Towns has promoted secondhand and antiquarian bookselling as a means of boosting tourism and development. But Paju Bookcity, which was conceived in 1989, is something new: a publishers’ enclave imagined from the ground up as a “special economic zone.”
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This was the complicated urban-cultural and socio-economic context that inspired Korean publisher Yi Ki-ung to found Paju Bookcity, and which shaped his decade-long battle to bring it to fruition: a publishing industry with a deep cultural history facing dramatic changes; a capital city bloated by years of top-down development that had proven unsustainable; and a national psyche recovering from what Yi described as “intense psychological confusion and disorder” brought about by decades of war, colonialism and dictatorship. As Heathcote says, Yi envisioned an alternative future; Bookcity was “a reaction to the rapacious redevelopment of Seoul, the loss of the city’s historic fabric and its rapid embrace of the culture of bigness and congestion.”  Bookcity’s self-styled exceptionalism is rooted in this origin story: it was conceived as not just another industrial estate, but as a city that would, in Yi’s words, “recover the lost humanity” of the country, a cultural project sustaining time-honored values and a commitment to the print tradition.
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From its inception, the project was wrapped in lofty utopian rhetoric. The Asia Publication and Culture Information Center — one of the signature buildings in Paju and the only one whose designer, Kim Byung-yoon, was chosen by competition — embodied the project’s central values: “preserving the spiritual culture of Korea … bequeathing the value and importance of the Book to the next generation.”
Link to the rest at The Design Observer Group and thanks to Chong Go for the tip.