SEOUL / Walkability to Promote Image of a Democratic Government: People’s Voices

In early 1990s, Non-government organizations started to collect complaints about unsafe pedestrian environment and responded by organizing civic movements for pedestrian rights. On June 20 of 1993, Networks for Green Transport, together with Safe Kids Korea, Korea Healthy Walking Federation and the Korea Traffic Disabled Association held the ‘Urban Walking Festival for the Promotion of the Right to Walk’ to promote pedestrians’ rights, with a sub-topic of ‘Harmony between Humans and Cars Begins with the Promotion of the Right to Walk’(KSP18 pg 43). Over 1,000 people joined the parade from Seoul City Hall to Marronnier Park in Jongno 5-ga, calling for the improvement of pedestrian rights and security of pedestrian rights. In the event, they called for the expansion of the budget from government for the improvement of the pedestrian environment, creation of school zones and residential zones and improvement of the road system and road facilities for pedestrian rights of people with physical disabilities.(KSP18 PG80)

2.1 Newspaper coverage of the Urban Walking Festival for the Promotion of Pedestrian Rights  Source: The Hankyoreh, June 19, 1993.

After that, In 1994 there was ‘the co-walking festival for the promotion of mobility rights for the disabled and the mobility handicapped’ and in 1995 there was ‘the bike ride in celebration of Earth Day’.(KSP18 pg43)In September 1998, same group of NGOs called for over 2,000 people  to sign the petition in a few hours to claiming the need to restore crosswalks in Gwanghwamun.

2.2 Newspaper article covering the campaign to restore crosswalks in Gwanghwamun Source: Kyunghyang Shinmun, September 16, 1998.

The transformation of the car-only traffic square in front of Seoul City Hall to be turned into a pedestrian plaza also started with campaign of citizens. The public demanded a walkable street that linked Sungnyemun Gate (Namdaemun) to Gyeongbokgung Palace via Deoksugung Palace and Seoul City Hall. They expected that it would demonstrate the implementation of grassroots democracy by showing that the city government did not reign over the public but listened to them. Mass demonstration, petition and urban walking festival were held one by one and eventually in 2004 it is finally transformed.

2.3 Seoul City Hall’s car-oriented plaza
2.4 Seoul City Hall’s car-oriented plaza after transformation into a pedestrian plaza

Sung, So-young, and Brian Lee. “Conflict Emerges over Seoul Plaza.” Korea JoongAng Daily, June 23, 2009.

Cho, Junhan, Seok Jeong, Eun-hee Kim, In-seok Kim, Sam-jin Lim, Myo-hee Myeong, and Ki-ok So. Edited by Sam-jin Lim. Report no. 18. THE KOREA TRANSPORT INSTITUTE.

1 Comment on “SEOUL / Walkability to Promote Image of a Democratic Government: People’s Voices

  1. I think Hong Kong is in some way quite similar with Seoul in the past as the traffic system is not pedestrian-friendly. Hong Kong is also a speed or efficiency-oriented city. Our experience of the city is often elevated from the ground or sunken underground. Rarely do we have an enjoyable experience to wander around city. However, as you mentioned ,condition in Seoul has improved in lot.The recent MVRDV’s Seoul high line park looks fantastic. Do you think condition in Hong Kong can be improved as that in Seoul? What do you think are the obstacles in stopping Hong Kong in becoming a pedestrian-friendly city compared to Seoul?

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