Seoul / Cheonggyecheon: Building up an eco-friendly urban center

To restore the biodiversity in the river is one major goal in the project of Cheonggyecheon in Seoul.  Although the water is directed from elsewhere, a similar ecosystem is restored as it is sink and separated from the civilization in the dense urban fabric.  With the height separation, the river is more enclosed and more favorable for a natural dwelling space.  The overall biodiversity is increased by 639% from 2003 to 2008.  The number of plant species, fish species, insect species, mammal species, and amphibians all got increased to a great extent, proving that the river is similar to what these living things enjoy in other natural habitats.

The chart below has summarized the number of species increased before and after the construction.

Plants Fish Bird Mammal Amphibian
2003 62 4 6 2 4
2008 308 25 36 4 8


The river section of Cheonggyecheon has suggested its capacity of holding flood and sustain a moderate flow rate of water out of the urban center.  It is true that it can carry at a maximum rate of 118mm in the decrease of water level per hour.  The heat island effect occurring in the previous elevated highway is actually reduced, in terms of up to 5.9 degrees Celsius drop.  The demolition of infrastructure also created wind corridor along the heart of the city, bringing 2.2-7.8% increase in wind speed.  As the traffic is greatly diverted elsewhere, the small particle air pollution also got reduced by 35%.


The area also resisted the economic downfall in 2003 and got an increase in the number of working people in Cheonggyecheon area by 0.8%.  The introduction of working opportunities created surrounding the river is in favor of the rise of land price and concentration of global business sectors.  In the same year Seoul’s working population is in contrast had a decrease of 2.6%.



Rudiger Frank, James E. Hoare, Patrick Kollner, Susan Pares. (2010). Conflict Management in Urban Planning. In Korea 2010: Politics, Economy and Society (pp. 85-112). Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.

Rudiger Frank, James E. Hoare, Patrick Kollner, Susan Pares. (2008). Korea 2008. Politics, Economy and Society (pp. 85-112). Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV.

Kim, J., & Ch’oe, S. (1997). Seoul: The making of a metropolis. Chichester: Wiley.

1 Comment on “Seoul / Cheonggyecheon: Building up an eco-friendly urban center

  1. I do believe that the success of the Cheonggyecheon river restoration project and the enjoyment it has inspired amongst Seoul’s citizens has even incentivised similar projects around the world. Cities in Japan, Singapore and the United States are recovering streams from storm drains, acknowledging the contribution of an urban green belt to social, ecological and economic sustainability.

    However, despite its overwhelming success, a few criticisms have been made of the project. Those with visual impairments and mobility problems complained that they had difficulty accessing the stream. Lifts and free wheelchairs were subsequently provided at seven locations, but the minority feel indignant that their needs were not included at the design stage. Some have criticised the project’s ecological authenticity and cost, given that water must be pumped from a nearby river and groundwater reserves to keep the non-perennial Cheonggyecheon flowing all year round. These critics have called for a more expansive restoration that includes the entire Cheonggyecheon basin and ecological system. Finally, rising property prices due to the urban renewal have caused concern that local inhabitants may soon be unable to afford the cost of living and working in the area.

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