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New Songdo City and South Korea’s Green Economy: An Uncertain Future

The previous presidency continued, in more ambitious scale, the green contruction initiatives that Lee Myung-bak promoted while mayor of Seoul. The Four Rivers project received much criticism before, during and after its construction. What of the even bigger project, Songdo? An afternoon seminar at SOAS considers the new city that will be the home of UN Green Climate Fund.

New Songdo City and South Korea’s Green Economy: An Uncertain Future

Dr Gareth Dale (Brunel University) & Dr Glen Kuecker (DePauw University)
Date: 5 June, 1:00 – 4:00 PM
Russell Square Room L67
Chair: Dr Owen Miller (SOAS)

“Green growth, New Songdo style: South Korea’s gigantomanic leadership bid”

Dr Gareth Dale (Brunel University)


In recent years, ‘green growth’ has elbowed aside ‘sustainable development’ as the rubric under which the environmentally-informed re-engineering of national economies is discussed. The concept of green growth has its origins in the Asia and Pacific Region, with South Korea a leading player. This paper narrates the ‘green turn’ of President Lee ‘The Bulldozer’ Myung-bak before investigating the details of his Green New Deal, assessing the environmental credentials of South Korea’s flagship green city, New Songdo, and offering an explanation of Seoul’s bid for world leadership in this (green?) field.

Speaker Biography

Gareth Dale teaches politics at Brunel University. His publications include books on Karl Polanyi, international migration, and the political and economic history of East Germany. He is about to commence a British Academy-funded project researching the ‘growth paradigm.’

“Building the Bridge to the Future: New Songdo City from a Critical Urbanism Perspective.

Dr Glen Kuecker (DePauw University)


As the global population grows to 9 billion people by 2050, demographers tell us that two-thirds will be urban dwellers. Much of this growth will happen in Africa and Asia where urban planners anticipate building hundreds of new cities from scratch. South Korea’s New Songdo City is among the first of these new cities, and many consider it a potential model for those that will follow. Its developer, Gale International, explicitly sees it as a model city, one they hope to replicate in China. Yet, we have little analysis of New Songdo City that evaluates if it is a sturdy bridge to the future, or perhaps a mistaken path. This paper uses critical urban theory to explore the limitations of the designer’s sustainability claims and how these are connected to issues of social justice, especially how projects like New Songdo City reproduce global inequities and inequalities. The essay will conclude by considering the implications of New Songdo City for our urban future.

Speaker Biography

Glen David Kuecker is a Professor of History at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. He earned the Ph.D. from Rutgers University in Latin American and Global Comparative History. He is co-editor of Latin American Social Movements in the Twentieth Century(2008). Currently, he is engaged in research and writing on the place of cities in the 21stcentury, especially how they will complicate our ability to navigate global crises. Eco-cities are one of the key areas of concern within the project.


Free and open to the public. No booking required.

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