South Korea is more than just K-Pop and skincare–it is a thriving culture shifting its focus with technology.

Whether based in Houston like Edgy Labs or in other major cities across the world, many places are car-centric. Few places favor pedestrians and public transportation. In an effort to battle traffic jams and shift focus from cars, the South Korean capital is leveraging new tech.

In what ways is the mega-city Seoul challenging its car-loving culture?

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image of Seoul, South Korea for article Seoul's Example is a Cure for car Addiction
South Korea | Asia Exchange

How This Mega-City Mitigated Critical Car Mass

Seoul has a history of embracing technology. You can’t become a mega-city without preparing for the future, after all. Some of the technological achievements are in the realm of entertainment. Streaming content is popular as are numerous K-Pop bands like EXO and BTS. There’s also this super fabulous 77-year-old woman with an impressively layered YouTube channel.

Other include recent changes to local infrastructure. Since there almost 9.8 million people living there, Seoul has a sophisticated public transportation system with subways and buses both backed by tech. Without these systems, Chang Yi from the Seoul Institute told CNN that Seoul would be even more car-centric. It would be: “like a traffic hell.”

 

Leveraging Current Systems to Change How Citizens View Cars

In one of his earlier, pre 1 million subscribers videos, car writer Doug DeMuro traveled to South Korea to learn more about its car-centric culture. Almost all of the cars he sees on the road are of Korean make with few exceptions. What you don’t see is how technology is moving all of these cars to avoid “traffic hell”.

image of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon for article
Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon | Seoul Metropolitan Government via WSJ

Mayor Park Won-Soon told CNN: “Our citizens were addicted to cars for a long time. Moving from the car-centric city to pedestrian oriented city . . . changing the minds of citizens is the most difficult and time consuming job.”

Many changes such as turning old roads into rivers and train tracks into walkways encourage pedestrians. Initiatives like this aren’t uncommon either.

Myeong-dong, a neighborhood (or dong) in Seoul’s central district, has been car-free since 1997. The mayor also enacted a plan to develop an old overpass into a “sky garden”.

All of these changes reinforce a “cure” for the city’s seeming car addiction.

image of traffic jam for article Seoul's Example is a Cure for car Addiction
traffic jam in Moscow | Wikipedia

Can Other Cities Cure Car Addiction This Way?

While Seoul is very much a work in progress, all of the city systems are supporting this shift away from cars. This means that, over time, the culture will shift toward pedestrians and public transportation. As early adopters and integrators of technology, could Seoul serve as an example city for other nations around the globe?

If city planners can leverage high-tech traffic data gathering and adjust plans, perhaps LA could negotiate its notoriously horrendous traffic. Maybe Houston and Dallas could become more walkable. As we move into a future where electric cars are most likely going to be the standard, a more pedestrian-focused culture may be a standard, too.

In what other ways could a city encourage pedestrians and cure people’s car addiction?

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