In this article, I explore ways in which one can make relationships with the commer- cially saturated environments of contemporary Korea in nuanced ways, by taking the term “the Ganpan Republic” (literally, “the signboard republic”) as a threshold. In doing so, this article offers three bodies of work: first, an introduction to the theories of enchantment; second, an analysis of the recent mega-scale urban project called Design Seoul with an emphasis on the ganpan; and third, a comparison of Design Seoul with French artist Manoël Pillard’s nightscape paintings of Seoul. While Pillard, as a non-Korean, pays full attention to the minute details of the signscapes with curiosity and revitalizes them through his painterly practice, Design Seoul strives to remove it from the domain of everyday life, thereby establishing a clutter-free cityscape. Instead of simply taking up the position of either Pillard or Design Seoul, I argue that reading the two together through the notion of enchantment encourages us to be attentive to the multiple sensorial dimensions of the ganpan, thus addressing the nature of the materials that are simultaneously distracting and sense-provoking.
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