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Seoul, South Korea conferred Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2018

  Published: 16 March 2018

Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, has clinched the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2018. 

Through a combination of visionary leadership and active engagement of its citizens, Seoul has flourished to become an inclusive, creative and sustainable city with a high quality of life. 

“Seoul once appeared as a city drowning in problems beyond solutions. Amazingly, strong creative leadership, building on deep citizen engagement and data-driven solutions, managed to turn things around. This mega city now leads the way in delivering inclusive, dynamic and forward-looking urban solutions. It is a truly worthy recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize,” said Nominating Committee Chairman Professor Kishore Mahbubani.

The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize honours outstanding achievements and contributions to the creations of liveable, vibrant and sustainable urban communities around the world. The biennial international award has been jointly organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) since 2010. 

Seoul has exhibited several model strategies in creating a distinctive and delightful home for its citizens: 

a) Bold leadership with innovative solutions. Post-democratisation in the 1990s, Seoul faced the challenges of rapid urbanisation. These included an increasingly resistant and vocal populace, a drastic increase in the number of cars and resulting environmental degradation. Bold leadership to implement catalytic projects, such as the Dongdaemun Area Regeneration to shift Seoul’s focus from traditional manufacturing to design, led to benefits for the entire city. 

b) Good communication with citizens and stakeholders. City leaders also engaged and negotiated with stakeholders representing different interests, and formulated a set of conflict management strategies. The government introduced a team of negotiators for urban development projects, to engage citizens on the city’s vision. The Seoul Master Plan 2030 went further to make citizen participation the norm of all plans, and prioritised bottom-up processes. 

c) Decisive shift to people-centric spaces, away from car-oriented transportation. Seoul utilised big data to help citizens make a seamless and convenient transition to public transport. Elevated highways and main roads were reclaimed to become prominent public spaces. For instance, an elevated highway was removed to restore a stream and create a natural recreational haven at Cheonggyecheong, and a formerly congested area at Yonsei-ro was pedestrianised.   

d) Creative rejuvenation of modern heritage. Seoul seeks innovative ways to repurpose its heritage buildings, a practice also known in the city as “development without demolition”. For example, Makercity Sewoon is a cluster of seven commercial superblocks built in the 1970s, which were rehabilitated through the sensitive introduction of new uses and interventions. 

For more details on these strategies, please see Annex A [PDF, 193kb]

"I would like to attribute the glory of receiving this award to the citizens of Seoul. I believe that this award is a recognition of the citizens of Seoul's retrospection of the past and insight into the future in order to make Seoul a ‘meta-polis'1,” said Seoul’s Mayor Park Won Soon. 

In addition to Seoul, four Special Mention cities were also awarded for their best practices in city management:

1. Hamburg, Germany
2. Kazan, Russian Federation
3. Surabaya, Indonesia
4. Tokyo, Japan 

For more details on these cities, please see Annex B [PDF, 288kb]

Prize Lecture and Award Ceremony at World Cities Summit 2018

Seoul will be invited to give the Prize Lecture on 9 July 2018 at the upcoming World Cities Summit, which will be held at Marina Bay Sands over 8-12 July 2018. It will also receive the Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Prize Award Ceremony and Banquet on 9 July 2018 during the summit. The prize comprises an award certificate, a gold medallion and a cash prize of S$300,000, sponsored by Keppel Corporation. 

Chief Executive Officer of Keppel Corporation Loh Chin Hua said: “Congratulations to the city of Seoul for its visionary leadership and active citizen engagement that have come together to make Seoul the vibrant, people-centric and innovative city it is today. Keppel shares the same commitment to building smart and highly liveable cities, through our solutions for sustainable urbanisation and looks forward to deepening our collaboration with Seoul.”

Representatives of the four Special Mention cities will also share from their experiences at a dedicated Prize Forum at the summit. 

For more on the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, please visit www.leekuanyewworldcityprize.com.sg


The term “meta-polis” refers to the transformation of cities’ objectives from growth and expansion, to relationships and connectivity, which the cities would target in a self-reflective and sustainable way. It is a new term coined by French sociologist Francois Ascher.

 
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