New Songdo: Korea rethinks urban development
Are eco-cities for the future or of the moment? Originally conceived as a technology and media city, New Songdo City was supposed to position Korea as a centre for research and development. In the mid-1990s the tech boom was turning to bust and that, combined with the 1997-98 Asia crisis, during which the Korean economy nosedived, put an end to plans for a technology paradise.
The project was reborn in 2001 as a free economic zone aimed at keeping Korea competitive with China and Japan. But in the aftermath of Korea’s economic woes, the IMF required the country to accept more foreign direct investment – even in the property sector. That provision permitted the Gale Company to step in with ambitions to build a North Asian business hub to compete with the region’s established commercial centres, while reducing environmental impact.
On paper, New Songdo City appears idyllic from an environmental point of view.