Seoul (1961-1979) / The “miracle on the Han River”

The term of the “Miracle on the Han River” was born to characterize the industrialization era and massive technological development that followed the Korean War. The expression finds its roots on the “Miracle on the Rhise” that was used for referring to the economic rebirth of West Germany after the Second World War. General Park Chung Hee was one of the major figure in this evolution when he took the power in 1961. He developed a Five Year Economic Development Plan that led to an expansion of agricultural production, the promotion of science and technology, the investment in economic infrastructure and it increased the employment opportunities. The growth in urban areas is based on urban industrialization.

This period was also known because of the violation of the human rights of the population but at that time, South Korea was also known as one of the poorest country in the world and then jumped to the 15th-largest economy.

Seoul symbolizes the largest city in Korea with a population of 8.1 million. Today this city is the “hub of Korea” by hosting a dense circulation, a political center, educational facilities and a cultural heritage by the fact it was the traditional capital of Korea.

Late 1930s map
Late 1930s map
Current map of seoul's districts
Current map of seoul’s districts


In those plans, we can see the original boundaries of Seoul that covers only Jongno-gu and Jung-gu in the second plan.

"Early days of development of Yeouido"
“Early days of development of Yeouido”

In the mid-1960s, in order to accommodate the new way of life of the Korea after the war, Yeouido, previously an airfield during the Japanese occupation has been converted into an island in 1967. Kim Swoo-geun was the architect in charge of the Master Plan of the island. He wanted to create a Manhattan of Korea by playing with megastructures but then the decision was going to a plan that following a more traditional city grid-structure.


Reference : Kharas C, Penalva J, Uribe A. South Korea: (2014) Reviving the Miracle on the Han River. NYU Stern School of Business []


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