Seoul / Restoring the aquatic ecosystem in Seoul: possibility in revitalizing the upstream

The environmental sustainability of the Cheonggyecheon restoration project has been questioned with its upstream still under coverage as sewer. Originally, Baekundongcheon and Junghakcheon were the main tributaries that flew from mountain ridges of Bukhansan, Inwangsan and Bugakshan into Cheonggyecheon at the confluence point at the Cheonggye Plaza nowadays.
Baekundongcheon and Junghakcheon flow map
Two tributaries flowing into Cheonggyecheon in the past (Stephanie MOT, 2009)

Seeing the success of Cheonggyecheon, there have been long term plans in restoring the Baekundongcheon and Junghakcheon, yet it was not implemented due to the difficulty in clearing the dense urban fabric along the diagonal axis that the streams ran through. It is also speculated that the river restoration projects are delayed due to the changing terms of mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government as Lee Myung-bak entered presidency before the projects could start.

However, uncovering river has become the new urban planning paradigm in Seoul with several other waterway projects going on. Work has been done to uncover the 1.5 km Seongbukcheon that originates from Bukhansan (Bukhan Mountain) and flows from Donam-dong into the Cheonggyecheon. Hiking paths and stepping-stone bridges have been established across the river to make the place a leisure gathering space and a chance to learn about nature for people.
The restored Seongbukcheon in Seongbuk-gu, 2013 (Leisure Information Network, 2013)

The Jeongneungcheon that is also in Seongbuk-gu was restored in 2011 as a natural river. It was also a tributary originated from Jeongneung Valley of Bukhan-san to merge into Cheonggyecheon. The restored Seongbukcheon and Jeongneungcheon both flow into Cheonggyecheon now at the points near Dumuldari, a bridge named with the meaning of “two streams joining”. The series of river restoration projects show possibility for the restoration of upstream of Cheonggyecheon to make the river an actual natural river.
Meeting point of rivers_
Confluence points of Seongbukcheon and Jeongneungcheon into Cheonggyecheon (Google Map, 2015)

1. Dunbar, J. 2012. Seoul 2063: ten predictions of the future. Accessed 21 December from The Korea Blog,
2. Jang, S. N. 2009. Heritage Authenicity and Monumentalization for Political Power – A Case Study of the Cheonggyecheon restoration Project in Seoul, Korea. Accessed on 21 December 2015 from
3. Leisure Information Network. 2013. Seongbuk-gu Community Profile Book. Accessed on 21 December 2015 from
4. Stephanie MOT. 2009. Baekundongcheon/Gwanghwamun-gil – A River Runs Through it. Seoul Village. Accessed on 19 December 2015 from
5. The International Awards for Liveable Communities. 2011. Seongbuk District, Seoul, Korea. Accessed on 21 December 2015 from

3 Comments on “Seoul / Restoring the aquatic ecosystem in Seoul: possibility in revitalizing the upstream

  1. The revitalization of Cheonggyecheon is a super well-known project that other cities wanted to learn from, but the cost of creating such a symbolic architectural project is massive. Environmental organisations have been criticising that the project lack ecological and historical authenticity, which is purely symbolic and not beneficial to the city’s eco-environment. The restoration of the Cheonggyecheon stream brings long-term ecological and historical recovery to Seoul, and the cost of managing it is also a great burden. Is it really necessary to do the same to the rest of the two streams? Can the government balance the cost and the benefit of the restoring of the other two streams, knowing the situation of Cheonggyecheon right now? That’s a decision Seoul need to seriously make.

  2. By restoring the two streams at the upstream, it is hoped that the real ecosystem can be restored by having water flowing from the natural source from Bukhansan. If it can be realized, the massive amount of costs on pumping water from the Han River may also be reduced. Species of the aquatic system can also settle in the river to bring real ecological benefits to the city. Of course, detailed inspection into the destruction to existing urban fabrics is still required in order to make decision for such revitalization.

  3. It’s wonderful to see this particular entry, because the problems of implementing this project is often undermined by its unsustainable tendencies. The effects of public space and restoration were great, but the overlooking of the issues of real ecological possibilities in favor of a speedier completion were costly. This points to the future of this project, and where it should be going towards. It also reminds us that the planning urban systems must take into account the broader regional contexts that occur upstream. Please cite courses for the images.

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