Seoul / The Restoration of Cheonggyecheon: Direct Physical Impacts along the Stream

The restoration project of Cheonggyecheon covers around 6 kilometers of the whole stream, crossing the central part of the downtown Seoul. It can be considered as a massive greening plan of the city that has brought significant physical impacts to the local environment and urban fabric along the river.


The demolition of the elevated highway and the restoration of Cheonggyecheon to become the linear park turned the whole urban strip from a scenery of concrete to a landscape of running stream and greenery. A total of 2270 street trees were planted along both sides of the river, bringing a pronounced visual impact in the urban scale. In addition, such a transformation also brought beneficial changes to the local environment. The elimination of vehicles along the path has helped mitigated air and noise pollution. The impact of heat island effect has also been alleviated, with a significant reduction of 3.8°C in the average temperature in the Cheonggye district. Moreover, biodiversity was also brought to the district by breeding aquatic species in the stream. The environment along the stream has been positively influenced by the restoration.


Cheonggyecheon as an elevated railway
Cheonggye elevated railway © 2011, KCET
Urban greenery along Cheonggyecheon
Urban greenery along Cheonggyecheon © 2011, Bridgette Meinhold


The restoration has also reorganized the urban fabric of the site. What goes along the periphery of the strip changed from the disorganized roads with busy traffic and hawkers under the elevated highway to an open urban plaza of recreational, cultural, and even political uses. There are various features along the plaza, such as walls of art and a museum. They provide different kinds of public space such as space for exhibition of the city’s art, history and culture. This public open space located in the city centre is also one of the venues for protests of the citizens, indicating its political significance. As for its adjacent areas, before the restoration, along elevated railway were mainly commercial and residential buildings, occupied by more than 7000 merchants and 50000 residents. With the implementation of the project, these areas also underwent gentrification and redevelopment, and their businesses and dwellings had to be relocated.


Wall of art along the Cheonggyecheon linear park
Wall of art along the Cheonggyecheon linear park © 2014, John Henry


  1. Hwang, Kee Yeon. “Cheonggyecheon Restoration and Downtown Revitalization.” HKIP & UPSC Conference on When Creative Industries Crossover with Cities, 2007, 82-89. Accessed December 7, 2015. Hwang.pdf.
  2. Yi, Myŏng-bak. 2006. 1% de ke neng: Han’guo Shou’er : Li Mingbo de meng xiang qi ji. Taibei Shi: Da guan chu ban shi ye you xian gong si.

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