the Tower of Pisa. Local news channels showed footage of residents rolling marbles down their disconcertingly sloped floors. A mountain hadbeen leveled and a river filled in, but what sort of equilibrium had beenproduced? Eunji and I tried the marble test, but it didn’t roll. We wererelieved and maybe a little disappointed.
The plans for Angel Tower were released shortly after we moved in.The name itself was a pun, the Korean word for angel being a homonymof the number 1004, the projected height of the tower in meters. Twentypercent taller than the Burj Khalifa, it would be the tallest in the world,and it was being erected in a vacant lot just across the street from wherewe lived. Ostensibly, this was good news for us. The construction of thetallest tower in the world would be sure to stimulate demand for realestate in the neighborhood, provided it didn’t give out under the addedweight and collapse into the bowels of the earth. The value of our modest unit in the Golden River Mountain Apartments would likely skyrocket. However, in the meantime, the tower signified no more than akilometer-tall headache. The once vacant lot was swiftly occupied by abattalion of bulldozers and cranes, and our formerly peaceful neighborhood was besieged by the clamor of construction. Even with the windows closed, there was no escaping it.
Eunji suffered the most, since she worked at home. Often I’d returnfrom the office to find her in hysterics, mutilated canvases strewn aboutthe living room like detritus from a plane crash. We looked into rentinga studio for her but couldn’t find a suitable place within our budget, soinstead we got a pair of industrial-use earmuffs. The earmuffs helpedsomewhat, and over the following months Eunji managed to paint a fewpieces that she liked enough to keep. Nevertheless, sales remained slow,and her applications for shows at the most prestigious galleries were rejected or ignored. It was clear that the earmuffs were only treating thesymptoms and not the disease.
About one year after construction began, a sinkhole opened up just afew blocks away, swallowing the front end of a bus. Though nobody waskilled, there were several minor injuries, and the old debate about thesustainability of the district’s pace of development was reignited. Muchof the rage was directed toward Angel Tower. By that time, the metallicframe of the building was beginning to peek above the walls that surrounded the construction site. Concerned netizens called it a Tower ofBabel, an ostentatious display of hubris that signaled imminent doom. Abeacon of Korea’s lofty future, the project’s proponents countered. Polls