Between the state and citizens: Changing governance of intermediary organisations for inclusive and sustainable urban regeneration in Seoul

With Kim Kon and Krystallia Kamvasinou
Land Use Policy, 105
Elsevier | Amsterdam | 2021 | ISSN 0264-8377

Cities across East Asia once experienced rapid economic growth and urban development under a strong interventionist state. The recent economic slowdown and political changes have pressured them to find alternatives to the previous state-led or market-driven urban development. New forms of participatory governance have been devised to mobilise citizen participation in decision-making. Citizen participation, however, is not simply about direct interactions between the state and citizens. It is also guided and facilitated by intermediary organisations that are state- or self-funded bodies working between the state and citizens. Seoul in South Korea is a case in point. Over the past decade, Seoul Metropolitan Government has institutionalised intermediary organisations to expand citizen participation in diverse areas of urban life. In urban development, a more inclusive approach has been put forward through new partnerships between government, intermediary organisations, and citizens. In this article, a case study of such partnership is critically examined. Urban regeneration in the Changsin-Sungin Area shows two meaningful changes in the governance of the intermediary organisation. The first change occurred when the intermediary organisation recruited residents as staff members and helped them to create a new local cooperative. The second change happened when the local cooperative took over the role of the intermediary organisation. Analysis of these changes revealed that intermediaries have a contradictory role in urban regeneration. On the one hand, the intermediary intervention has expanded citizen participation and improved consistently the engagement of the community of practice. On the other hand, intermediary intervention has served to instrumentalise citizen participation and constrain the growth of an autonomous community of practice while helping the state to retain control over urban regeneration. In this sense, the intermediary-led participation contains seeds of yet-to-be realised potential, albeit with the current flaws, for more inclusive and sustainable urban regeneration, which this study recognises as an integral part of emerging post-developmental urbanisation in South Korea.


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

With Matjaž Uršič
Asia Europe Journal, 10.1, pp. 21-39
Springer Verlag | Berlin | 2012 | ISSN 1610-2932

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.


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

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.


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.