Celebrating local heritage while marginalizing local language: the multilingual linguistic landscapes of Seongsu-dong in Seoul

Tae Sik Kim, Jong Soo Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This study analyses the multilingual linguistic landscapes made up of languages, visual materials, and built environments in Seongsu-dong, where old industrial sites and new commercial places are indiscriminately juxtaposed. This study focuses particularly on (1) how languages are associated with different built environments of new commercial places and old industrial sites, (2) how the local industrial heritage is visually mobilised by new commercial places in ‘the pursuit of visibility’, and (3) how remaining industrial sites are both linguistically and visually marginalised. The languages, built environments, and visual materials, along with the users of the spaces, create contrasting semiotic aggregates. These aggregates expose the hierarchical tension between the commercial and the vernacular landscape in the neighbourhood. The commercial places highlight the local industrial heritage as globally trendy visual components, achieved through well-designed Roman alphabet letters or minimally inscribed Korean letters. This creates a cosmopolitan commercial landscape. In contrast, old industrial sites are filled with banal industrial texts in Korean, resulting in a vernacular landscape. The visual representation of the trendy industrial heritage, the use of Western-originating languages, and their cosmopolitan values combine to form a semiotic aggregate that reveals the underlying aspiration embedded in the town’s nickname, the Brooklyn of Seoul.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Multilingualism
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • industrial heritage
  • linguistic landscape
  • multilingualism
  • semiotic aggregate
  • Seoul
  • vernacular landscape

Cite this