Seoul - 7.1 Global City Seoul

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Understanding Korea Series No.4
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5) Education-oriented Culture 1) Global City Seoul 2) Policies Geared Toward a Global City

Climate of Seoul

Seoul is located at the eastern end of the Asian Continent, and the official title is Seoul Metropolis. Seoul Metropolitan Area is referred to as the capital area that includes the adjacent city of Incheon and Gyeonggi Province. Seoul is located at a temperate zone of 37.33 degrees north latitude and at 126 degrees east longitude, but Seoul’s winters are colder and summers are hotter compared to other areas sharing the same latitude. The maximum air temperature hits about 30 degrees centigrade during August while the minimum air temperature goes down to about -7.1 degrees centigrade during January. The yearly average temperature is 11.8 degrees centigrade. The annual average precipitation is relatively high at about 1,469.8 mm, but 58% of the rainfall is concentrated during the summer months of June to August. The coefficient of river regime is critical (The Han River’s coefficient of river regime is 390, 50 times higher than that of the Rhine River, which is 8).

Table 8 Climate of Seoul
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average low ℃ -6.1 -4.1 1.1 7.3 12.6 17.8 21.8 22.1 16.7 9.8 2.9 -3.4
Average high ℃ 1.6 4.1 10.2 17.6 22.8 26.9 28.8 29.5 25.6 19.7 11.5 4.2
Precipita-tion(mm) 21.6 23.6 45.8 77 102.2 133.3 327.9 348 137.6 49.3 53 24.9

Political, Administrative and Judiciary Center

Roughly one half of Korea’s population or more than 20,000,000 people live in Seoul Metropolitan Area. Seoul has developed from an agricultural capital into an international city and an industrial and information center in the 20th century. It is finally emerging as a leading global city pioneering a brand new urban culture based on advanced information technology industry and on smartphones that is attracting love and attention from the global community in the 21st century. As the capital of the Republic of Korea, Seoul Metropolitan Area houses the topmost institutions of all three branches of the government, namely political, administrative and judiciary. Recently, government administrative functions partly relocated to Sejong Special Autonomous City but Seoul hosts the core branches of the government – the Blue House, the National Assembly and the Judiciary Branch – and still functions as the political, administrative and judiciary center.

Center of Transportation, Economics and Culture

Seoul is a transportation center: it only takes 40 minutes from Incheon International Airport to Seoul via Airport Express Rail, and as of 2010 more than 7 million people use the Seoul Metro Subway System’s 15 lines each day. There are 420 Metro Bus Lines with 7,967 buses. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Bus Only Lane System launched in 2004 are in operation. Since the Metropolitan Unity Fare System was put into practice in 2007, more than 5 million passengers actively use the bus lines. Korea Train Express (KTX), which has top speed of 300 kilometer per hour, connects the Seoul Station and Busan reducing the travel time to 2 hours and 40 minutes between them. After its opening, Seoul became the center of transportation that connects the whole of Korea.

World Cultural Heritage Sites such as the royal tomb of the Joseon Dynasty, and the palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, the National Museum of Korea, the Seoul Arts Center, and Sejong Center for the Performing Arts are all located in Seoul. A global fashion event called Seoul Fashion Week is also held twice per year (March and October) in the city along with other festive events. Seoul offers diverse cultural experiences ranging from traditional destinations like Bukchon and Namsangol Hanok Village to modernized commercial centers of Myeong-dong, Jongno, Gangnam Station and Coex.

More than 50% of Korea’s top 1,000 corporations or 517 of them are located in Seoul. If the range were expanded to the Seoul Metropolitan Area, the percentage would rise to 70% or over 700. In short, Seoul is the economic center of the country.

Seoul and a Comparison of 6 Megacities

According to a 2006 comparative research on 6 megacities of Seoul, New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing by Seoul Development Institute (SDI: renamed as Seoul Institute (SI) in 2013), Seoul had state-of-the-art information technology and IT infrastructure. The percentage of internet usage among the residents was the highest among the 6 cities. This meant the city was a convenient locale for foreign companies to pursue their international business activities.

Seoul’s population density was the highest compared to the other cities (New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Beijing): the population of the Seoul city center was about 10 million (23 Million in the capital region); the population of New York was 8 Million; London’s population was 5 million; Paris had 6.4 million (Ile-de-France, 11 million); Tokyo’s population was 8.5 million (12 million in Tokyo Prefecture); and 9 million people were living in Beijing. Seoul had the highest population density followed by Tokyo and New York.

The traffic congestion rate of Seoul was similar to that of other cities despite its high population density. The number of crime per 100,000 people was relatively lower than the other cities, proving Seoul to be the safest city to live in. Seoul and Beijing had the lowest apartment rental rates and the commercial office rental rates were relatively low in Seoul along with Beijing and New York.

As of 2006 Paris had the most foreign tourists, and London and New York were the next in order. More foreign tourists visited Seoul compared to Tokyo and Beijing. Paris hosted the most number of international conventions as of 2005, followed by New York and London. Seoul hosted more international conventions than Beijing and Tokyo. Before and after designated as UNESCO City of Design in 2010, Seoul hosted numerous major international conventions including the G20 Seoul Summit, the Inaugural General Assembly of World e-Governments, Organization of Cities and Local Governments, and C40 Large Cities Climate Summit in 2009, and has adopted a cooperative attitude towards global urbanization.

OECD’s Competitiveness Evaluation

The OECD noticed the phenomenon of accelerating urbanization along with the emergence of multiplying megacities and expanding urban areas. It has concluded that megacity population concentration facilitates competitive advantages in the global stage through economic agglomeration, specialization, diversification and economics of scale. To stress this point, the OECD evaluated each city’s competitiveness and classified it into three groups based on the percentage of the city’s GDP and national GDP. The first group is called the World Star and the cities in this group lead the nation’s economy. The second group is the National Star and the economy of the cities in this group is ahead of the national economy. The last group is the Transitional Phase and the GDP of the cities in this group is behind the national GDP. The OECD classified Seoul in the third group, the Transitional Phase. The OECD evaluation of Seoul was that it needed growth engines for the national economy.

Center of Northeast Asia, BeSeTo-Line

The line that connects the three central cities in Northeast Asia – Seoul in the middle, Beijing in the west and Tokyo in the east – is called the BeSeTo-Line. Seoul is emerging as one of the central cities in Northeast Asia that form the BeSeTo-Line and as a financial and cultural center. There are 40 mega regions in the world, and they make up 66% of all global economic activities. As of 2009 the Seoul capital region ranked 11th. Also, Seoul placed 10th among the top 20 Global Cities of G20 countries selected based on the number of global top 100 companies’ headquarters and major subsidiaries in 2005. In the 2008 Global Competitiveness Report by International Institute for Management Development (IMD) Seoul ranked 31st place. In the same year Seoul placed 4th in the financial center ranking, yet in the case of the quality of life evaluation Seoul placed 86th. Life in Seoul was evaluated as relatively inconvenient despite the scale of its economic activities.

The reason for the low quality of life in Seoul is not economic. When the rental rates of major megacities are compared, Hong Kong has the highest actual rental cost per unit area that the renter pays followed by Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei in descending order. It is easier to appreciate the scale if the cost per unit is calculated in number of Big Macs. One can rent the unit area with 20 Big Macs but in Hong Kong one must pay about 4 times more or 79 Big Macs in order to rent the same unit area.

Table 9 Rental Rates in Major Megacities of Northeast Asia
Note: NOC=Actual Rental Cost Per Unit Area the Renter Pays
Source: Economist. Com, CBRE, Saengbo Real Estate Trust Research
City NOC (US$/month) NOC/Big Mac
Hong Kong (Central) 134.82 79
Tokyo 164.63 56
Shanghai (Pudong) 58.43 32
Singapore 74.24 29
Seoul (CBD) 48.53 20
Taipei 37.66 17

Understanding Korea Series No.4 Seoul

Foreword · Acknowledgments 1. A City Called Seoul · 1.1 Introduction · 1.2 Seoul as the Capital and a Local City

2. The Capital of Joseon, Hanseong · 2.1 Seoul Before It Became the Capital · 2.2 The Principle Behind the Establishment of the Capital, Hanseong · 2.3 Population Changes in Hanseong

3. Modern City Gyeongseong · 3.1 Transformation of the City Prototype · 3.2 Transformation of the Urban Space · 3.3 Expansion of Gyeongseong’s Urban Area

4. The Growth of Seoul and Transformation of the Urban Space · 4.1 Population Growth and Expansion of the Urban Center · 4.2 Redevelopment of Gangbuk’s Original Urban Center · 4.3 New Development of Gangnam · 4.4 Differentiation of the Urban Space, the Way to a Polycentric City · 4.5 Megalopolitanization of Seoul Metropolitan Area: Megacity Seoul

5. Shadow of Growth and Regeneration and Healing of the City · 5.1 The Miracle on the Han River: Accomplishments and Shortcomings · 5.2 Apartment Nation and Economic Imbalance between Gangnam and Gangbuk · 5.3 Disappearance and Regeneration of the Traditional Urban Residences · 5.4 Waterways and Reviving Stream that have Disappeared · 5.5 Restoration of the Destructed Ecological Environment · 5.6 Congested Streets and Rising Environmental Pollution

6. Historical and Cultural City, Culture of Seoul · 6.1 Seoul’s Symbolic Space and the Emblem of Seoul, Haechi · 6.2 Diverse Cultural Areas and Streets · 6.3 Culture of Recreation and Past Time · 6.4 Consumer Culture of the Subway Station Vicinity Areas · 6.5 Education-oriented Culture

7. Global City Seoul’s Present · 7.1 Global City Seoul · 7.2 Policies Geared Toward a Global City

Sources · About the Author