Seoul: Vertical and Horizontal Governance for Multi-level, Multi-City Metropolitan Issues


City Profile:

Capital and largest metropolis of South Korea, forming the heart of the Seoul Capital Area. Today, Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from an economic boom called the Miracle on the Han River which transformed it to the world's 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$845.9 billion.




Myounggu Kang is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Vice President for International Affairs at the University of Seoul. He was Senior Urban Specialist at the World Bank, Director-General of International Urban Development Collaboration for the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and Acting Dean of the International School of Urban Sciences at the University of Seoul. He is a co-author of the chapter “Seoul: Downtown Regeneration through Restoration of the Cheonggyecheon Stream” in the recent World Bank publication Regenerating Urban Land: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leveraging Private Investment (2016). He also authored the article, Smart City: A Case of Seoul (2015). He is currently leading the International Capacity Development Programs of Seoul on smart and sustainable urban development. Kang holds a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



As an urban area grows, it expands beyond its formal administrative boundary. This expansion can be seen in many cities around the world, not only in developing regions. "The administrative boundaries of cities no longer reflect the physical, social, economic, cultural or environmental reality of urban development and new forms of flexible governance are needed“ (EU, 2011). As Seoul Metropolitan Area (SMA) grew from approximately 2 million inhabitants in 1960 to 20 million in 2000, SMA confronted various multi-level, multi-city issues which must be solved in order to achieve sustainable urban development. This paper discusses SMA's experiences in three multi-level, multi-city metropolitan areas including urban planning, solid waste management, and water management. Especially in the explosive growth of the early urbanization phase, vertical coordination — led mainly by central government working with local and regional governments — was required and effective in solving metropolitan issues. As the urbanization matures, local and regional governments can resolve many metropolitan problems through horizontal coordination, or between governments, instead.