For better or worse, South Korea’s Songdo remains one of the best-known smart city projects in the world, a petri dish of great promise and disappointment. Heralded for its, Songdo has at times been a victim of its own hype, criticized as a sterile laboratory that seemed to put humans secondary to a sci-fi vision.
But South Korea is nothing if not fast-moving and forward-thinking, and Songdo, while not forgotten, is increasingly seen as yesterday’s news, the version 1.0 of the smart city initiatives springing up across the country. Staging everything from ambitious test-lab sites to smaller, incremental pilots, South Korea is leveraging the advantages of its innovation-led, tech-driven economy. And while few direct comparisons are publicly made to Songdo, the new projects seem to focus on a more inclusive, people-centric approach, with a strong emphasis on citizen engagement and services.
In a February speech, President Moon Jae-in had his eyes squarely on South Korea’s smart cities of the future, calling them among “the government’s top priorities,” and “the cradle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
In 2018, Moon’s administration singled out Busan and Sejong as South Korea’s showcase smart city projects, with both slated to begin construction later this year and be operational by 2021. Both projects—which will utilize big data, robotics and AI to improve the delivery of public services