Part V: Local Government Innovation in Seoul

Part V: Local Government Innovation in Seoul

This is the fifth part of a series following an MPA study trip to Seoul, South Korea. 

Part I: Studying in Seoul with Trevor Minyard

Part II: Seoul Solution

Part III: To Live and Work for the Benefit of All Mankind

Part IV: Seoul’s Lump Sum Rental Structure


By Trevor Minyard – LinkedIn and Twitter

The halfway mark in our Seoul case study has arrived, and it’s been a full day! We were fortunate to attend two great presentations, the second of which included a field visit to the traffic control command center of the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Our day started with a magnificent lecture by one of Seoul’s Park Directors, which covered creative solutions incorporated in Seoul’s parks and green spaces master plan. To provide the best commentary for the readers of ELGL in relation to parks, below I’ve given summary of the programs that could easily translate to the western context:

72-Hour Urban Projects

Seoul takes applications for, and funds small urban parks that are designed by the citizens. The idea is to have regional stakeholders design small green spaces and/or amenities that can be completed within 72-hours. See an example of a weekend project completed last year below:


Hiking Trail Stamp Challenge

The national parks service in America has various stamp and patch programs, however this program is at a national level. Seoul has an outer hiking trail that spans many kilometers. Recently the parks department implemented a challenge-based program that provided stamps to residents and foreigners that completed certain hikes. If a participant completed the full loop, then they receive an official certificate from the Mayor of Seoul! This small program is something I believe can be rolled out in many ELGL cities- let me know if you agree!

Reusing All Resources, Not Just Valuable Ones

While this specific parks initiative may be in action for your cities, I want to highlight the ingenuity of Seoul’s experience. Perhaps you are aware that Seoul has hosted the World Cup in the past. However, you may not know that the Seoul World Cup Park was developed directly on and around a landfill. Through cutting edge environmental efforts, and clever planning, Seoul created a world class park in possibly the very last place we’d expect. 

Witnessing such a great presentation in relation to parks development and planning was followed by an equally impressive field visit to Seoul City Hall’s traffic control command center. 

The City of Seoul has invested heavily in creating a better transportation experience both in public and private modes. Such an investment is not without reason, as Seoul serves over 30 million individuals in a 24-hour period through its public transportation. All of this activity is monitored at Seoul’s traffic command center (called “TOPIS”) which is an over 20,000 sq/ft room outfitted with an entire wall of monitors for analysis.

From a traffic safety standpoint, all roads and railway stations are monitored via CCTV, and RFID devices are used on each train and bus to process usage statistics as well as general flow. Information collected by TOPIS is shared via a transparency portal that is accessed by over 1.4 million Seoulites. Furthermore, the data is stored and incorporated in generating traffic predictions based on time, weather, and date.

A final interesting efficiency created by Seoul’s transportation unit is the use of unmanned cameras to monitor various traffic violations. For example, if a car is parked in a restricted area for more than five minutes, the camera records its plate number and issues a ticket to the registered address. Over 120 million Korean won is generated each year through three million issued tickets. 

I hope this update has been as exciting for you to read as it has been for me to learn on the ground. For more information on these policies and others of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, head over to Seoul Solution. Tomorrow we’ll be looking at a fresh slate of policies I’m sure you’ll enjoy!

In addition to discussing policy items this week, I’m profiling various students with other MPA programs represented in the case study. Please meet fellow University of Texas – Dallas student, Aysha Khan: 

Aysha Khan


University of Texas-Dallas 

Program: Masters of Public Affairs

What’s been your favorite part of Seoul? My favorite part of visiting Seoul has been exploring the markets. I love Korean fashion and the cafes here, such as the Cat Playground, are truly unique.

Bonus Pictures