Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

Date 2014-12-22 Category Urban planning Updater scaadmin
Last Update

Policy Overview

As the Dongdaemun Stadium became shabby and deteriorated, and the surrounding downtown area was deteriorating into a slum, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) decided to demolish the stadium and establish the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), a multi-complex edifice as the center for the design and fashion industry and a history and culture park for citizens and visitors.

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) now stands out as a major landmark of Seoul. Aside from its aesthetic value with a distinctively neofuturistic design, it is also seen as the most successful urban development project ever attempted in Seoul as it has not just transformed the deteriorated downtown region into South Korea’s vibrant fashion hub and popular tourist destination, but also successfully coordinated the intricately tangled conflicts between interested parties involved in the process.


Background & Purpose of Dongdaemun Design Plaza Project 

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (henceforth called, “DDP”) was planned as a landmark to grow the downtown economy as the growth engine of design and creative industries in the recessed downtown area, to build an international exchange network as a global source of design and creative industries, and to serve as a hub of East Asian culture and tourism. To implement the plan, eight strategic objectives were established: development of creative and future design, strategic base of the design industry, global design knowledge exchange system, designer network platform, hub of cultural and art activities, global landmark to create a tourism brand, creative environment and place identity, and downtown trading area promotion program.

<Figure1> View of Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)


Historical & Cultural Background of Dongdaemun


① Demolition of Fortress Wall of Seoul in Dongdaemun area 

DDP was built in an area where a fortress wall was once located to protect Hanyang during the Joseon Dynasty. However, the wall was to be demolished due to the development of modern weapons and tactics, new transportation means, and external expansion of the city. The demolition began in 1889 as a trolley railway was installed between Seodaemun and Cheongnyangni. The wall around Dongdaemun was destroyed in 1908 when a Japanese prince visited Seoul. Then a wall connecting Dongdaemun and Gwnaghwamun was destroyed, without any prior planning, to build Gyeongseong Sports Complex to celebrate the marriage of a Japanese crown prince during the Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s term in 1924. The wall was further destroyed by the construction of civilian housing. Demolition was accelerated by many unauthorized construction work in the area after Korea obtained independence and following the Korean War.

② Hullyeondogam and Gyeongseong Sports Complex 

Along the Fortress Wall of Seoul, there was Hadogam, branch barracks of Hullyeondogam housing soldiers in training and Yeomchocheong, a gunpowder armory. In 1925, the wall and other buildings were demolished to build the Gyeongseong Sports Complex, later known as Dongdaemun Sport Complex. It was the first modern sports facility for athletics, baseball, tennis, and swimming. After Korea gained its independence, the Gyeongseong Sports Complex was renamed to Seoul Sports Complex, serving as a site for important national events in 1948. It was renamed to Dongdaemun Sports Complex later, and its use was diminished when Jamsil Sports Complex was built in 1984.

③ Formation and development of Dongdaemun commercial sphere

The Dongdaemun commercial sphere started to develop at the same time a market autonomously emerged around Baeogae in the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty. Gwangjang Market was formed and developed as a modern market in 1905. The market became a hub for the clothing industry as well as a nationwide wholesale shopping district attributable to the numerous sewing factories built around Pyenghwa Market in the 1960s. A general fashion shopping mall named Miliore was built in 1998 when the new retail commercial sphere was formed as a marketplace offering the latest fashions at a low price.

Progress 1

Establishment of General Downtown Recreation Plan

The 2006 General Downtown Creation Plan was established to develop the downtown area into an attractive and active center where the global city of Seoul could meet the world while maintaining the flair of its 600-year history. This plan suggested four South-North corridors and important arrangement points to promote the entire downtown area.

DDP was planned as a hub of complex cultural corridors to connect Daehakro, Heunginjimun Gate (Dongdaemun), and Mt. Namsan. This plan suggested to renovate Dongdaemum, whose functions had been degraded along with its aged facilities, into a downtown place of relaxation, as well as to build DDP as a global design and fashion industry hub to lead related cultural industries.


<Figure 2> Establishment of general downtown recreation plan (Complex Cultural Corridor in the Downtown area)


Establishment of Dongdaemun Sports Complex Park Development Plan

With the General Downtown Recreation Plan established in July 2006, the Dongdaemun Sports Complex Park Development Project was actively discussed as one of the ways to promote the four Downtown Corridors. The project was planned to promote commercial and cultural activities by setting up Dongdaemun fashion and cultural centers and connecting underground spaces while demolishing the aged Dongdaemun Sport Complex and develop a cultural space combining business and culture. Meanwhile, an archaeological field survey for cultural assets, a feasibility study to establish the fortress wall restoration plan, and a framework plan were established in August 2006. On September 18th the  excavation and restoration of Seoul Fortress Wall and the cultural assets within the site was announced. The total budget for this project was KRW 24.3 billion. For the archeological field survey for cultural assets, a budget of KRW 40 million was allotted, and KRW 180 million of the reserve fund was allocated for feasibility study and framework plan research expenses.

Design and Construction of Dongdaemun Design Plaza

In November 2006, Seoul held an idea contest to promote the DDP project and draw the interest of citizens. It was an opportunity for citizens to suggest their ideas to the International Nominated Design Competition for Invitees and thus to the DDP project. The design competition was announced in April 2007 and the design of architect, Zaha Hadid, won the competition in August of the same year. The demolition of the Dongdaemun Sports Complex began in April 2007, and Samsung C&T started construction in March 2009. The Dongdaemun History & Culture Park was opened on October 27, 2009 and the DDP opened its doors on March 21, 2014.

<Figure 3> Dongdaemun Design Plaza Plan (Draft)


Progress 2

Dongdaemun Design Plaza

The DDP, comprised of three aboveground floors and four underground floors, has become a landmark and tourism attraction symbolizing the design and creative industries of Seoul. It is a hub to display and spread the trends of global design and creative industries through domestic and international cooperation network development along with an annual variety of programs and events by hosting global exhibitions and conferences within the design and creative industries. To this end, the DDP is equipped with multi-purpose exhibition & convention halls, international conference halls, a design museum, design gallery, design playground, design lab, and amenities for visitors in three sections: Alimteo, Baeumteo, and Salimteo.

<Figure 4> Dongdaemun Design Plaza



Development of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park

 Located on the east side of the DDP, the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park connects the ring-shaped Downtown Green Field Corridor from Mt. Naksan to Mt. Namsan, and serves as a cultural space to exhibit historic and cultural assets of Seoul. It was originally planned as a design street to introduce the latest design trends, but was later changed to the history and culture park because structures and artifacts of the Joseon Dynasty (including Fortress Wall of Seoul and Hadogam Site) were discovered on the site during the construction of the building. The park consists of the Fortress Wall of Seoul and Igansumun (8,030 m2), two outdoor structure exhibition spaces (4,373 m2), Dongdaemun History Museum exhibiting discovered artifacts (1,313 m2), Dongdaemun Sports Complex Memorial Hall showing the history of Dongdaemun Sports Complex (339 m2), small-scale Igansumun Exhibition Hall (2,058 m2), and Gallerymun (400 m2).


<Figure 5> View of Dongdaemun Design Plaza

The local commercial districts were integrated by connecting the eastern and western commercial districts, which were separated by Jangchungdanro-ro, with underground space. In addition, the poor aboveground walking environment was improved by developing an underground walking network to connect the Euljiro Underpass and the subway stations of Line 2, 4, and 5. The connected underground space now serves as a downtown cultural space along with the aboveground space.

Excavation and Preservation of the Fortress Wall of Seoul and Hadogam remains


Because the Fortress Wall of Seoul was found to have crossed the planned DDP site, Seoul planned to restore the fortress wall at the site in conjunction with the entire fortress wall (18.6 km) restoration project. The restoration started in April 2009 with a budget of KRW 2.4887 billion. The Restoration Project of Fortress Wall of Seoul included test pitting, excavation, restoration plan establishment, and restoration. The test pitting was first performed in the baseball and football field sections. Many artifacts were discovered through excavation. Abiding by the Fortress Wall of Seoul Preservation Measure, the SMG decided to preserve the site and perform the restoration work later.

Meanwhile, a full-scale excavation started as artifacts related to life and culture of the Joseon Dynasty were found in sites of the government buildings including Hadogam. The authorities planned to relocate excavated structures to their original locations, maintaining their original state on the basis of historical research. The budget of KRW 1,377.8 million was allotted for the structure relocation and restoration.

<Figure 6> Distribution Map of Historical Remains around DDP



The SMG established an organization for the DDP project with departments of the design & construction, operation preparation & promotion, and post-development operation.

① Design & Construction: Cultural Facility Project Unit 

Dongdaemun Design Park Manager of the Cultural Facility Project Unit was in charge of designing and building the DDP. The Cultural Facility Project Unit was responsible for building large structures of important city projects and managed the design, construction, and supervision of the International Nominated Design Competition for Invitees, civil engineering, construction, and equipment.

② Operation Preparation & Promotion: Design Seoul Headquarters 

The Design & Planning Officer and Promotion Officer were responsible for the operation preparation and promotion of the DDP. The Design Seoul Headquarters was responsible for the general administrative work of the Design Seoul policy and assumed full responsibility of operation preparation and promotion to ensure the DDP to serve the central function of the design development policy of Seoul.

③ Post-development Operation: Seoul Design Foundation 

A professional, efficient, autonomous, and financially independent organization was established to operate the DDP as a global design center. The Design Seoul Foundation was established in March 2009, and is now responsible for the planning and implementation of various programs to support the design industry and promote design culture in Seoul, as well as the management and operation of DDP facilities.


<Figure 7> Organization



Idea Contest for Citizens

Seoul held an idea contest to attract interest of citizens in the DDP project and to promote the purpose of the project. The contest was announced in November 2006; entries were received until December; and the result was announced in January 2007. There were 35 general participants and 45 professional participants (including corporate bodies), and the evaluation was based on the design concepts and overall designs.

Based on the contest results, The SMG changed its original plan to entirely remove the sports complex. The revised plan included the partial preservation of the first modern sports facility in Korea and the creation of Dongdaemun Sports Complex Memorial Hall in DDP. It was also reflected in the guidelines for the International Nominated Design Competition for Invitees.


International Nominated Design Competition for Invitees

Upon the advice of architects, the nominated design competition for invitees was selected, rather than a turnkey method, to achieve a world-class result to build the landmark of Seoul by inviting proven artists in February 2007. It was equally open to both domestic and foreign architects to ensure a fair competition for the best possible architectural design. For the competition, a selection committee was formed in February and committee members and invitees were selected in March. The committee announced the contest for invited architects and received proposals in April. It decided the winner in August and then made her complete the planning of basic and execution designs. The design guidelines of the International Nominated Design Competition for Invitees included details of the design plaza, underground space, and history & Culture Park. Zaha Hadid’s Metonymic Landscape finally won the competition.


<Figure 8> Winner of International Nominated Design Competition for Invitees,
Metonymic Landscape by Zaha Hadid 


Introduction of Construction Administration (CA)

It was very complicated and difficult to draw up the blueprint of the DDP, which is primarily composed of curves and slopes in and out of building. Therefore, Seoul made an agreement with the DDP designer on CA to engage in the construction. CA is a supervisory process where the designer supervises the construction according to the drawings and specifications as a representative of the client. This cost an additional KRW 2 billion to the DDP construction.


Conflict with the World of Sports

The Civic Network for Justice of Sport (CNETJS) held a solidarity conference to oppose the demolition of Dongdaemun Sports Complex in July 2007. They criticized the demolition even though it was agreed by the Seoul City Government, Korea Baseball Organization, and Korea Baseball Association. The protestors demanded to remodel the ball park into a stadium during the baseball season and an open sports complex for citizens during the off-season. Meanwhile, a joint task force of the CNETJS and eight other civil society associations announced “the Declaration of 100 People to Oppose Demolition of Dongdaemun Sports Complex” with some members of the National Assembly and famous baseball players. The declaration stressed the historical and cultural values of Dongdaemun Sports Complex as the first sports & cultural facility in Korea’s modern history. They demanded that it be remodeled into a stadium, a sports museum, or a park. To resolve the conflict, Seoul organized a TF team including those from the Sports Promotion Department and Seoul Sports Council, and tried to convince the opposing civil associations and sports figures. While contacting the opponents through official and unofficial channels and emphasizing the necessity of the DDP project, Seoul tried to garner opinions and find solutions such as development of an alternative stadium, partial preservation of facilities, and construction of a memorial hall.

Conflict with merchants

Because of the DDP project, merchants in Folk Flea Market of the Dongdaemun Sports Complex, underground shopping area in front of the baseball stadium, and street vendors around the complex had to move out. The opposition from the merchants was fierce because they believed their livelihood was threatened due to the project. To solve the conflict with those opposing merchants, Seoul had face-to-face interviews with them and suggested feasible solutions for individual merchant groups. 

① Conflict with Merchants in Folk Flea Market and Street Vendors 

Seoul had set up a temporary Folk Flea Market in the football stadium of Dongdaemun Sports Complex as a part of the solution for street vendors around Cheonggyecheon Stream when Seoul started the Cheonggyecheon restoration project in 2003. With the Dongdaemun Sports Complex Park project announced in September 2006, the Folk Flea Market merchants required for the SMG to build a Global Folk Flea Market and relocate them to the new market, as promised in the Cheonggye Stream Recovery project. The merchants used to resist sporadically during the Cheonggyecheon restoration project. But this time, they became more organized and took collective actions than before. Street vendors around the sports complex joined the movement to oppose the project and demand their right to make a living.

The SMG tried to convince them the purpose of the DDP project by having over 1,500 meetings with them in order to appease them and fully understand the scope and limitation of the negotiations. The authorities also analyzed the statetments and detailed requirements of the street vendors. At the same time, Seoul tried to devise a relocation measure for Dongdaemun Folk Flea Market. With the Seoul Folk Flea Market open in Shinseldong in April, 2008, Seoul started negotiations for the relocation with the street vendors and suggested a comprehensive solution including support for equipment modernization, change of business types, and marketing strategies for those who agreed to relocate.

② Conflict with Merchants in Dongdaemun Sports Complex

Sporting goods stores were established in the Dongdaemun Sports Complex after it was remodeled in 1966, and the merchants maintained operations through private contracts with the Seoul City Government. With their places of business at risk with the DDP project, they argued possessory rights to the shopping district as their reward for their efforts to promote it until then and claimed adequate compensation. Seoul took a hardline stance by filing eviction suits for stores because their request for possessory rights was unreasonable, but tried to find a more flexible solution as they filed a counter suit, and thus, the negotiations seemed like it would take a long period of time.

First, the negotiations, negotiation support, relocation support, and legal support operations were allotted to responsible departments, and detailed analysis was performed for the relocation subjects. According to the results, they carried out individual negotiations in line with the requirements of individual merchants and actively convinced them while engaging in more active discussions with the representatives of associations. As a result, the relocation was agreed to in February 2008 with the conflict solved.

However, the process emphasized the necessity of systematic management of shared assets and prior management to prevent this type of conflict. Also, it was proven that development of a negotiation manual, fostering negotiators, and other efforts to manage public conflicts were required.


③ Conflict with merchants in the underground shopping area in front of Dongdaemun Baseball Stadium

The DDP project included underground space development to use the underground space under Heunginmunro and Euljiro, as well as the underground shopping area in front of the Dongdaemun Baseball Stadium that had been managed by the SMG. Thus, it was inevitable to demolish the shopping mall and relocate the merchants, who demanded to be permitted to open up stores under DDP and continue the rental agreements to guarantee their livelihood.

Seoul mentioned that it was difficult to accept the demand and started to evict the stores and return rental deposits to shop owners. Seoul also suggested the merchants to relocate to the underground passageway of Euljiro 1-ga and City Hall Square, or a private shopping mall in the Jamsil area. The merchants refused to move out at first. After several negotiations, they eventually agreed to build alternative stores in the underground shopping area of Euljiro section 4 and relocate to there. However, this met another opposition from the store owners and merchant association of Euljiro section 4. They argued that it would cause inconvenience as the density of stores would increase and the relocated stores (such as sports clothing) would not match the existing commercial district. The SMG ordered the facility management corporation of underground shopping areas to negotiate with the merchants. It finally convinced them through continuous communication, including a marathon conversation lasting 12 hours.

Conflicts with the World of Cultural Assets 

Culture Solidarity and other civil associations started an anti-demolition campaign arguing that the Dongdaemun Sports Complex be registered as a cultural asset of modern times for its historical and cultural values. The members of the Modern Cultural Asset Committee under the Cultural Heritage Administration also emphasized the necessity of preservation because it was, in and of itself, a history of the Japanese colonial era, independence, and division of the Korean Peninsula. However, the SMG already initiated the restoration of the Fortress Wall of Seoul connecting the four main gates and four sub-gates. The arguments for the restoration of the fortress wall and preservation of cultural assets of Dongdaemun Sports Complex were overlapped.

Through a series of discussions, the SMG initially convinced the Cultural Heritage Administration that it was reasonable to restore the remains of the Joseon Dynasty around the Fortress Wall of Seoul and demolish the Dongdaemun Sports Complex. The Cultural Heritage Administration accepted the proposal but demanded a partial preservation of the representative sections of the ball park and Seoul agreed. Consequently, two light towers were decided to be preserved north of the football stadium and the eastern flame holder to be relocated to the park site. It was also planned to create a separate exhibition space with a miniature model of the Dongdaemun Sports Complex and 3D video in the DDP. The conflict seemed to be ended.

However, another problem arose regarding the restoration when the remains of the Fortress Wall of Seoul were excavated in the site of the ball park. The Cultural Asset Committee of the Cultural Heritage Administration insisted that the site be fully excavated and restored because of its high value as a historical site. However, the SMG wanted to only perform a trace restoration because the full restoration would require changing the framework of the DDP project.

The SMG tried to convince the members of the committee of the necessity of the DDP project. The SMG and the Cultural Heritage Administration finally agreed on three policies to preserve the historical site: (a) Preserve the site of the Fortress Wall of Seoul and Igansumun, of which bases were found, with minimal emergency restoration; (b) Relocate Hadogam and other building sites to a newly built remains park (Structure Exhibition Hall) on the east side of the fortress wall for preservation; and (c) Preserve part of the Hadogam site of the baseball stadium in the underground square of the main building of the DDP. The SMG also reached an agreement with the Cultural Heritage Administration by calling the park Dongdaemun History & Culture Park to reflect its characteristics. In this way, two difficult problems—preservation of cultural assets and implementation of the DDP project—were resolved harmoniously.




① Promotion of Design and Creative Industries

Seoul held the biggest ever Seoul Fashion Week with the opening of the DDP in March 2014, which would provide opportunities for rising designers to raise their profile and for top designers to improve their competitiveness and create business opportunities in home and abroad, leading to development of the Korean fashion industry. The SMG is planning to hold fashion events including joint fashion shows and fashion fairs at DDP to promote the district and support to expand sales of Dongdaemun commercial district.

② Promotion of Tourism

It was reported that the floating population increased by at least 10% after the opening of the DDP. The number of foreign tourists is continually increasing as well. The SMG expects that more than half of the foreign tourists will visit Dongdaemun in the future. Thanks to DDP, the district is expected to earn about KRW 881.7 billion and create 5,129 new jobs. Moreover, the expected revenue will be about KRW 210 billion in the neighboring commercial districts.

③ Conflict Management

After the DDP project was announced, the stakeholders opposed the spatial rearrangement for various reasons such as their interests, identities, and actual profits. The conflicting groups included the world of sports, merchants of Folk Flea Market and Dongdaemun Sports Complex, street vendors, and the world of culture, and the conflicts continued for all stages of the project from demolition to completion. The conflicts had an enormous impact on the DDP project, so Seoul organized and operated different negotiation groups for each counterpart.

The DDP project provided an important lesson in public conflict management: it is essential to reach agreement through negotiations with multiple parties by expanding civic participation. The traditional conflict management policy focused on dealing with the problems only after conflicts arose. The DDP project showed this approach was not efficient. The city recognized that it is crucial to prevent conflicts instead of taking actions later. The DDP project provided an opportunity to build a better conflict control system. The city started to operate conflict management teams for public projects. It produced a document concerning the know-how of controlling public conflicts. It has also nurtured expert negotiators.

④ New Paradigm of Urban Planning and Design

The DDP project was conducted through private and public cooperation such as DDP Operation Preparation Committee, DDP Planning & Coordination Group, Creative Process for Experts, and Expert Advisory Council. In addition, the city actively collected opinions of citizens through public policy workshops and idea contests. The DDP project was carried out through participation of different groups and agencies including Dongdaemun merchants, and collection of civil opinions. Indeed, it suggested a new paradigm for urban planning and design.
The project was the first case to introduce a nominated design competition in the public sector, helping upgrade the quality of public construction. It also adopted new management methods, such as Construction Administration (CA) and Construction Management (CM), for fair and transparent management of the entire process. The project contributed to the development of a standard work system for public building procurement.

Limitation & Challenges

① Promotion of Dongdaemun Commercial District

Local traditional business people point out the lack of programs of the DDP to promote industries in the Dongdaemun area. The original objective was to develop the Dongdaemun area as a global fashion hub by utilizing DDP as a base where young designers and skilled sewers in Pyeonghwa Market and Changshindong can colloborate. In reality, DDP only serves as a venue for Seoul Fashion Week but not for other fashion programs. Moreover, the programs run by DDP are only focused on attractions such as exhibitions. There is a growing criticism that if DDP is operated as it is now, it will be difficult to promote the Dongdaemun commercial district and transform it to a design hub.

In 2014, DDP was just opened and it was understandable that DDP did not have sufficient programs to promote the neighboring commercial district. But starting 2015, DDP is planned to actively contribute to promoting the Dongdaemun commercial district through different programs to support marketing in cooperation with neighboring commercial districts, to provide a tour to the DDP in conjunction with its tourism and historic resources, and to create added value and jobs by recycling (or upcycling) leftover pieces of fabric and leather from neighboring sewers and combining them with new designs.

② Preservation and Creation of Historicity and Locality

There is criticism that despite its architectural value, DDP destroyed the historical and spatial value of Dongdaemun. The memory of space and history about the Dongdaemun Sports Complex site is only represented in a small memorial hall of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park with some remains and stories scattered about. It is also criticized that the Fortress Wall of Seoul has not been fully restored under the shadow of the DDP building, and history could not be fully understood by relocating the Hadogam out of the fortress wall.

It would have been difficult to restore the original state of the site during the development of the DDP, but it is essential to preserve the historicity and locality as much as possible through the efficient operation and management of Dongdaemun History & Culture Park, Dongdaemun History Museum, Dongdaemun Sports Complex Memorial Hall, Igansumun (part of the Fortress Wall of Seoul), and Structure Exhibition Hall that were developed to pass down the historical memory of the site. On the other hand, continuous efforts are required to create a new and dynamic history of the DDP by developing unique content related to the DDP as a global source of design and creative industries and operating cooperative programs with neighboring districts.

③ Reasonable Balance Between Public Benefit and Profitability

After DDP opened in March 2014, its operator, the Seoul Design Foundation increased its estimated financial income from KRW 19.2 billion in 2010 to KRW 32.1 billion while reducing expenditures from KRW 39.8 billion to KRW 32.1 billion to improve the financial soundness of the DDP. To reinforce the financial independence of the DDP, the Seoul Design Foundation changed the objectives of the organization from opening preparation and facility development to operations while focusing on creating new businesses including branding, place marketing, and advertising in addition to its key businesses such as leasing, rental, and exhibitions. However, the profitable operation for financial independence cannot avoid criticism that it may damage the identity of DDP as a public facility. Therefore, the balance of public benefit and profitability is a remaining challenge to solve in the future operation of the DDP.

The Seoul Design Foundation has been developing and operating different business models including leasing, rental, and exhibition planning to improve the financial independence of the DDP after its opening. It is necessary to reinforce the financial independence capability for sustainable operation of the DDP. At the same time, consistent efforts and consideration are required to balance the public benefit to provide a creative experience to citizens for a reasonable price and profitability through development and operation of creative content and programs.


1. Seoul City Government (2013), Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park Project
2. Seoul City Government (2013), Construction of Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park
3. Seoul Institute (2008), Research on Construction of Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park (DDP) (General Plan: Basic Concept & Operation Program Development)
4. Seoul Special City Government (2007), General Downtown Recreation Plan

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