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Korea, Republic of

Seoul Goes Local in Development

Sujoyini Mandal's picture

A recent EASIN Urban, Transport and DRM Community of Practice (CoP) meeting I attended in Seoul, South Korea was an eye opener in terms of the rapid urban development of the city of Seoul.  Considered an East Asian tiger, manufacturing and an export-led economy have made Seoul a global city with neon skylines and the new focus of Asia’s technology boom. A presentation by Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG), the agency responsible for the city’s urban planning, describes the city as a ‘strategic space for people to reside in since ancient times’. Nevertheless, the city and its urban identity have gone through various transformations – through the Japanese occupation (1910-1945) to restoration after the Korean war (1950-53) to industrialization (1960s-1970s) to development and globalization. In SMG’s words, Seoul is witnessing the ‘environmental and historical awakening as a world city’. Evidence of this was seen in sites I visited to the restored Cheonggyecheon stream and a former landfill converted to Haneul Park.

Global High-Tech City Model

News story by Hannah Bae, Seoul

Near Seoul, a new city rises from the mud flats, aiming to become a world model of sensor-activated, computer-driven management of an entire city.

New construction in Songdo, South KoreaSONGDO, South Korea – Designed as a “city within a city” – in this case, the port city of Incheon, just west of South Korea’s capital in Seoul – the Songdo urban development is expected to become a bustling hub of efficient global commerce, education and research and development.

What happens when you build a city from scratch – or, rather, from mud flats?

The result isn’t instantaneous.  Right now – the spring of 2011 – the reality, following more than $10 billion of the estimated eventual $35 billion invested over seven and a half years of construction, is clusters of skyscrapers amid a giant construction site, only just starting to show signs of life. 

However, 2011 will be a big year for Songdo, as the city takes major steps toward becoming one of the most technologically advanced urban spaces in the world.