Social role of urban parks in global cities: a case study of Cheonggyecheon Restoration, Seoul and Diagonal Mar Park, Barcelona

Asian Urban Places, pp. 7-15
Heng Chye Kiang, Oscar Carracedo García-Villalba, Zhang Ye (eds.)
School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore | Singapore | 2014 | ISBN 978-981-09-3687-7

Provision of urban parks is considered to be an important instrument, which helps addressing social and territorial cohesion in global cities. Yet local governments strive to create new investment opportunities for global capital and provide spectacle for expanding tourism and cultural industries, which often makes urban parks into an instrument of competition between global cities rather than an effective approach, dealing with their social and environmental problems. Speculative urban development considers urban parks merely as an economic asset, which can be stripped off their social meanings, and turned into a commodity that can easily be marketed and consumed.

The paper compares Cheonggyecheon Restoration in Seoul and Diagonal Mar Park in Barcelona to explore the changing social role of urban parks as urban commons and meaningful communal space in global cities. Cheonggyecheon is a large urban park in the downtown Seoul, constructed after the Cheonggye Expressway was demolished and an ancient stream was recovered on its place. It quickly became a popular public space and a new tourist attraction in Seoul. Diagonal Mar Park, constructed on a former industrial site in Barcelona, is less centrally located and is one among many urban parks in the city. Although the two parks seem to have little in common at first sight, the paper argues that the instrumentalisation of Cheonggyecheon and Diagonal Mar Park, in order to improve economic competitiveness and global appeal in Seoul and Barcelona, has negatively affected their social role in a similar way.

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Comparing urban renewal in Barcelona and Seoul: urban management in conditions of competition among global cities

Asia Europe Journal, 10.1, pp. 21-39
with Matjaž Uršič
Springer Verlag | Berlin | 2012 | ISSN 1610-2932
DOI 10.1007/s10308-012-0319-1

Cities have become increasingly autonomous economic and political actors which actively respond to the pressures and opportunities of globalisation. Consequently, the urban management of any particular city is often based on the assumption that the city can improve its position against rival cities by efficiently managing its strategic resources and promoting its presumed advantages. Though such an approach to urban management may help cities to improve their global competitiveness and the quality of their residents’ everyday life, it can sometimes result in negative consequences at the local level, thus actually narrowing the development prospects of the cities in the end. This article discusses urban management against the backdrop of the competitive urban policy in Barcelona and Seoul, and compares the local consequences of urban renewal in both cities. Based on a comparison of the two cases of urban renewal, 22@ Activity District in Barcelona and the Cheonggyecheon restoration in Seoul, this article argues that, in conditions of competition among global cities, even very different approaches to urban management and urban renewal may result in similar consequences at the local level.

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Selling global Seoul: competitive urban policy and symbolic reconstruction of cities

Revija za Sociologiju, 41.3, pp. 291-313
Croatian Sociological Association | Zagreb | 2011 | ISSN 0350-154X
DOI 10.5613/rzs.41.3.2

The paper focuses on a process of symbolic reconstruction of cities, where the existing image or meaning of places is purposely changed with the aim of attracting new investments, events or tourists to a particular city. The process of symbolic reconstruction is situated within the context of growing competition among cities. Symbolic reconstruction also affects tourism development in cities by providing an easily marketed and consumable image and meaning of places. The case of the Cheonggyecheon restoration in Seoul helps in understanding how symbolic reconstruction of cities is related to and affected by competitive urban policy, urban renewal and city marketing. Observing local consequences one can conclude that while the Cheonggyecheon restoration and resulting symbolic reconstruction of the city helped Cheonggyecheon to become the major tourist attraction and icon of global Seoul, it also resulted in a decline in local places and cultures. Such outcomes of urban renewal contradict strategic goals of urban policy and may prevail in the end over the benefits, which the Cheonggyecheon restoration brings to tourism development and everyday life in Seoul.

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Urban regeneration in global Seoul: new approaches, old divides?

Viennese Contributions to Korean Studies II, pp. 185-204
Koreanologie am Institut für Ostasienwissenschaften, Universität Wien (eds.)
Praesens Verlag | Vienna | 2010 | ISBN 978-3-7069-0619-7

The Cheonggyecheon restoration, as the most known example of urban regeneration in Seoul, has drawn a lot of attention in Korea and abroad for its innovative approach. The restoration is often presented as a case that has noticeably improved quality of life and resolved growing social, economic and environmental disparities in the city. Yet the Cheonggyecheon restoration also plays an important strategic role as an instrument of urban policies, by which Seoul Metropolitan Government is trying to improve global competitiveness and global image of the city. In this paper we show that it is precisely the discourses and policies of globalization that have become not only a motor of urban regeneration, but also an important source of emerging social and spatial divides in Seoul. We argue that exclusion of local residents, caused by the Cheonggyecheon restoration, may lead towards decline of civic participation and alienation of the city as a common political agent of all citizens. Such undesired social, spatial and political outcomes may at the end prevail over the actual benefits of urban regeneration.

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Cheonggyecheon restoration: bridging old, building new divides in global Seoul

Urban regeneration in New York, London and Seoul, pp. 216-229
Urban Regeneration Network (eds.)
Pixelhouse | Seoul | 2009 | ISBN 978-89-958897-5-6

The article shows that it is the discourses and policies of globalization that have become not only the motor of urban regeneration, but also the main source of growing social and spatial divides in cities. These divides are even more obvious in globalizing cities such as Seoul. In conclusion the article argue that exclusion of marginalised social groups, which emerges as a consequence of urban regeneration, leads towards declined participation of citizens in the process of urban governance and towards alienation of cities as shared political institutions. Such undesired outcomes of urban regeneration may at the end prevail over its benefits, as the case of the Cheonggyecheon restoration illustrates.

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Restoration of the Cheonggye Stream in Seoul: global cities and collective space

Družboslovne razprave, 55, pp. 115-134
Slovenian Sociological Association | Ljubljana | 2007 | ISSN 0352-3608

The paper explores the broader social background of transformations that public space is undergoing amidst the conditions of transnational co-operation and growing competition among cities. The character of public space in global cities is becoming more homogenous and excluding due to its increasingly instrumental role in urban development. The importance of public space for the formation of a democratic and heterogeneous civil society is thereby being eroded. The paper tries to show how the recent restoration of the Cheonggye stream in Seoul in South Korea has influenced its social role and thus verify the assumption of the excluding nature of public space in global cities. The reasons why Cheonggyecheon is losing its past role of a place where civic society and local cultures were reproduced are summed up in the conclusion.

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