Seoul Campus

5. Overview on Seoul Urban Planning Experience

Date 2017-09-16 Writer ssunha
  • Urban Planning
  • Prof. Name Myunggu Kang
  • 2017-09-16

Rapidly Urbanizing World and Overview on Seoul Urban Planning Experience

<Urban Planning Module 5>

Let’s take a look at the urban pattern and how urban planning determines the urban pattern of Seoul. This is the background. Seoul is located in the middle of the Korean peninsula. It’s in the middle of the north eastern Asia. In terms of size, the Seoul metropolitan area is quite similar to other megacities of the world such as Tokyo, London and Paris. Most phenomenal change in Seoul in the last 50 years is the exponential growth of population.
As you can see in the other megacities of the developed world their population is pretty stable for the last 50 years but Seoul’s population was 2.5 million in 1960, Seoul’s population reached over 10 million in 1990. On the average, Seoul’s population increased by 270,000 per year. Rapid population increase generates lots of problems. We experienced lots of shanty houses in the slum areas.
This picture shows the slum areas near Cheonggyecheon area and this is the iconic picture of the common toilet. Because this is the slum area there were no toilets, no drinking water,no public services and the quality of life was very low. And this is one of the temporary tent school. With increasing population we needed to provide schools but we didn’t have enough facilities so we set up a temporary tent school. And also the very rapid population growth has an impact on the environment.
As the slums grew, the mountain areas and forests were degraded. There were also problems with the river such pollution and flood, which needed to be solved. This kind of development pattern was a typical measure to provide land and housing units up until the mid-1960. As you can see, this development shows low density, single and detached housing approach.
It expanded the urban land with low density and single use types of expansion. But this approach had a big problem. It was a problem of 3,000 vs 300,000. Because those kinds of approach could provide only less than 3,000 housing units. But Seoul’s population increased by 300,000 every year. So it was a problem of 1:100 ratio, which meant that Seoul provided 1 housing unit per 100 increase.
So this measure was not appropriate in solving the housing shortage problem. And in terms of urban pattern, without proper planning and control, the city would experience problems of sprawl. This leads to problems of pollution and congestion so we needed a controlled development.
In some cases compact development was the right choice and in other cases with rapid population growth, the new town approach may be more appropriate. So let me give you a quiz. Which do you think is the greener city? When I ask this question, most of the audience pick A because it shows many green spaces and single housing. It looks good. But in terms of carbon emission, the higher density shows lower emission per capita.
So in terms of carbon emission, or environmental burden, City B with its higher density development is better. I like this picture because this is an invisible beauty. When we think about Seoul, we usually think of high rise buildings But Seoul's area is bigger and it includes these mountains, rivers and streams.
If Seoul was developed in a low density pattern, we would have to give up all these mountainous areas so all the areas in the photo should be developed like this. But instead Seoul concentrated its development in specific urban areas so that we can save this natural area.
This is the tradeoff. The development of the urban areas is actually a good measure to protect the natural areas. This is the score card of Seoul and Korean cities in terms of carbon emission per capita. American cities are up here with low density and higher carbon emission. And European cities Seoul and Korean cities have higher density pattern and show the lowest carbon emission per capita.
So it's a green city. Such kind of green city development was started with the Seoul Metropolitan Master Plan which was published in 1966. So that time, the urban pattern was determined to be compressed development. This dark area is the old town area we placed urban development areas around the old town areas, and around the outer rim we put the green belt.
We strongly compressed the development in the 7 new towns. So these are the 7 new towns for concentrated development. As a result, you can see the urban areas increased by around two times whereas the population increased about four or five times. It was a successful measure to protect the natural areas. And these are the typical size of the 7 new towns.
The population size is on average 400,000 people for every new town. With the master plan in the 1960's, Seoul now has a pretty good shape in terms of the green area protection, concentrated development and public transportation supply. It's well equipped with public services.
This good development began with the good master plan. And even after 1990's, we still experienced some population growth. So we developed further new towns in Bundang, Ilsan and other areas because it's better to concentrate the development in specific areas and we linked this development with public transportation instead of letting it sprawl.
All developments are planned and controlled so that we can preserve the natural areas. These are the typical land use plans. So on average, the percent of public land used is around 60% of the new towns. This is very good in terms of sustainable development. So this is the picture of the Bundang area. With the picture on the right you can see the high density developmentwith vast majority of green space.
When we decreased the density, we may need to consume more land in order to accommodate the same number of people. There is a tradeoff. If you look at the developed areas, it's quite dense but there is a tradeoff so it's better to preserve the natural areas for sustainable development.

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