[Viewoint]Recreating SeoulDubai has become the city with the most creative construction in the world. The Burj Al Arab, a luxurious hotel on the coast, and Nakheel Properties, the man-made palm tree-shaped islands, are the representative icons of Dubai.
The Burj represents Dubai’s ambition to become the best city in the Arab world, and the globe at large. Dubai also aims to not only to become the financial hub of the Middle East, with its transportation and logistics infrastructure and human connections and openness, but also to build a family resort center for the region.
Plans to build first-class cities are taking shape around the world. Korea’s neighbors are particularly active in such projects. Beijing, propelled by the Olympic Games opening tomorrow, has been engaged in a massive redevelopment.
Tokyo also announced its “Tokyo Rebirth” project in 2001 aimed at transforming itself. The construction overhaul is led by private companies, and the goal is to create in central Tokyo the most attractive city space in the world.
Japanese conglomerates such as Mori, Mitsui and Mitsubishi were assigned to develop a section of central Tokyo and competition was encouraged among them. With their reputations on the line, the conglomerates have devoted much of their energy to the projects. Idea and design competitions between companies are extremely fierce. In order to make economic gains, the companies formed a strategy to create an environment where new residential and office spaces are built in harmony, in order to truly bring about the renaissance of Tokyo.
The Tokyo Rebirth project also includes a plan to develop the city into the world’s next financial hub, after London and New York. Construction of a new landmark is also planned. In order to promote the image of Tokyo being one of the best cities in the world, it announced a plan to build the 610-meter-high Tokyo Skytree, taller than Canada’s CN Tower, by 2012. It is an expression of the city’s desire to showcase its technology and create a new cultural icon.
We are living in an era when a nation’s competitiveness is dependent upon a city’s competitive power. Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy, but we do not have a global city. In order to make Seoul a city of international competitiveness and charm, more attractive than Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong or Singapore, we must share our wisdom.
Until now, internationalization has meant Koreans reaching abroad. Now is the time to initiate a new momentum to attract more overseas visitors to Korea.
Globalization is the irreversible current of our time. In order to succeed in the current era, we need a strategy to upgrade Seoul, the country’s representative metropolis, into a world-class city. The precondition for such a development is to create a unique culture and a symbol for the city.
Furthermore, Seoul needs social infrastructure such as transportation and lodging facilities to allow anyone from the world to easily and comfortably enjoy their stay here.
That will only be possible when new infrastructure, including buildings that will come to symbolize Seoul, are built as masterpieces with the world’s best technology and design. The Sungnyemun area, for example, is the city’s representative zone where Korean history comes alive. It is the center of Korean culture and administration.
Seoul is the connection between Korea and the world, and the Seoul and Yongsan train stations are the centers that connect Seoul and Korea’s cities. A plan to develop the area in front of Seoul Station has been completed, but we do not have a blueprint to develop the space around Yongsan Station. The Gyeongbu Line is important, but the Honam Line is equally so.
A cooperative, national model between the government and private developers is also needed, just like there was for the Incheon International Airport project.
It is critical that we provide opportunities to companies, so they can create a new legend for the city. A new Seoul can be born only when companies compete to make or break their reputations.
*The writer is a professor of business management at Yonsei University.
by Joo In-ki