- onNovember 11, 2014
- Vol.17 Autumn 2012
- byKim Junghyuk
Records state that the Neotown Union of Building Managers was officially dissolved in August 2007, but it still survives as an underground organization. It was an underground organization even before they disbanded—the managers always lived underground—but now they have taken cover under perfect darkness, the underground of the underground, the pit of the world. No other organization in the history of mankind has fit the description of “underground organization” so perfectly. The building managers of Neotown call themselves SM, a title that originates from that unforgettable incident of April 2007 called, in official SM parlance, the Battle in the Dark. SM is short for Slash Manager.
The Neotown Union of Building Managers differed slightly from the usual building managers’ association found in most cities. Gopyeong City’s Neotown was comprised of small buildings lower than ten stories—multi-purpose buildings for the most part—that were clustered closely together, rather than the high-rise that has become standard for modern apartment complexes. The Union was formed, in part, to deal with the unique challenges posed by this style of development. A problem in one building would spread to another building with the speed of a computer virus. An abnormal pressure rise in the outdoor units of one building’s AC system meant that someone from a different building was sure to complain of the same problem before the day was out. This was inevitable as all the buildings were built around the same time and according to similar plans. The Union of Building Managers was formed not to protect the rights of the tenants but to protect the building managers from mass complaints or questions from the tenants. As has been the way with all organizations since the Earth was created.
The first president and founder of the Neotown Union of Building Managers was Gu Hyeon-seong. He would have actually made a better president of the Association of Megalomaniacs, if there was such a thing, except he had no idea that he was a megalomaniac. As has been the way with all megalomaniacs since the Earth was created. An architect by training, he enjoyed sticking his nose in everybody’s business and was a member of the Neotown Organizing Committee as well as a sponsor of the Gopyeong City Architect’s Association. It puzzled the people of Gopyeong City as to where Gu got all of his money.
“Gu’s favorite word was ‘repairs.’ He called it a beautiful word. He said, ‘There is no way to build a perfect building. Only repairs can make a building perfect.’ Don’t you think that shows how much of a perfectionist Gu Hyeon-seong was?” says Lee Mun-jo, the man rumored to know Gu best. Lee was the Union’s co-founder and official No. 2 man; however his was a title in honor only compared to the organization’s No. 1 man. Gu Hyeon-seong was a millionaire that owned seven buildings in Gopyeong City, while Lee was merely a glorified maintenance man. Lee was more Gu’s right hand man than anything, and it was he that took care of most of the day-to-day practicalities. Building management was something like a hobby for Gu Hyeon-seong. With all of his money he still insisted on living in the maintenance room in the basement of his building, and was wont to say that he knew of nothing more entertaining than managing buildings. Neotown was built in 1991, and the Union of Building Managers was founded a year after in 1992. From 1992 to 2007, Gu and Lee ran the Union successfully for fifteen years. Nobody rebelled against their dictatorship, nor ever questioned their decisions. Until the Battle in the Dark of April 2007, that is.
Gu Hyeon-seong was nobody’s favorite, but nobody could deny that he had built up Neotown almost single-handedly. Gu strived to make Neotown a world-class destination. He threw himself into the entire process, overseeing everything from building plans to promotional strategies, so that within three years Neotown earned both the title of ‘Best Area to Open a Real Estate Office’ and ‘Best Area for Business’ as voted by real estate agents across the nation. Gu even wrote a book on the subject following the success of Project Neotown. From Basement to Rooftop, Building Management 101: All Buildings Are the Same was written for the building managers of Neotown, but as its fame grew as a work of genius that redefined the way people thought about the city and buildings it became the definitive tome for building managers everywhere.
Building managers especially liked “Chapter 23: How to Change a Fluorescent Lamp.” Unlike the rest of the book, this chapter reads almost like a work of fiction with its detailed description of ungrateful tenants that assume building managers are born knowing how to change fluorescent lights and the mortification building managers suffer changing fluorescent lamps under the watchful eyes of said tenants. The author also included helpful yet easily overlooked tips such as how to gauge the temperature of a lamp without touching it, how to insert the tube into its socket, and how to open large shades with ease. It was a huge comfort to building managers simply knowing that somebody understood their plight. Indeed, one could say that the Union of Building Managers’ success under Gu’s leadership was largely due to the success of From Basement to Rooftop: