The South Korean government and the International Business District set out in the early 2000s to create an alternative to the oversaturation of Seoul, the country’s capital. This is how the Songdo, a city designed from scratch with the purpose of being smart, ecological, technological and in general an example to follow for the rest of South Korea and the entire world. More than two decades later, the promise remains unfulfilled. In Songdo there are still more promises than tangible projects.
In 2017 we saw how Songdo positioned itself as one of the cities of the future. South Korea and private companies they had invested more than $ 35 billion in it and it stood out especially for the idea of not having to use cars, in addition to being up to 40% of its green surface. However, it was still too early to say that it was the future of cities.
The techno-eco-utopian city
Living in Songdo, about 40 km from overcrowded and chaotic Seoul, it should be paradise. There are no cars, it is a “smart” city where even the garbage is recycled without the need for garbage trucks and it is tremendously spacious. For having, the city has up to the majority of homes connected to control them remotely, or absolute control of electricity consumption and comparison with the rest of the homes in the building.
In 2020 the city grew to 167,000 residents according to picked up IFEZ. There are also cars despite being promoted as a car-free city. The big difference with the rest of cities is how the traffic is organized here.
With a city fully monitored and full of sensors, the system is able to notify each inhabitant when they should leave so that traffic jams are not caused or if there are problems that make the route longer. In fact, it even leaves the elevator ready when it detects that a resident’s car arrives at its building.
The techno-eco-utopian city however has not been populated as expected. Of the 300,000 residents expected at the time of its design, there is barely half the population. Things are not turning out exactly as organizations expected. With much of the city already built and billions of dollars invested, Songdo has a bigger problem: people don’t live there.
It is a system that feeds itself: the lack of inhabitants causes the absence of companies, services and industries; The absence of companies, services and industries causes the lack of inhabitants. And yet it was the perfect city on paper.
A (future) biotech research cluster
The determination of South Korea to make it the city of the future, despite everything, does not stop. Precisely in November 2020, the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, expressed what is the idea they have for the smart city. Indicate and The Korea Herald what the plan is make South Korea a leader in the biological industry. For this, Songdo will play an important role, it will be a biotechnology cluster. In other words, they want the big biotech research and development companies to be located in the city.
The plan is not just a plan but it has begun to be put into action. Samsung Biologics and Celltrion have announced the investment of more than 1,500 million dollars in their new offices and laboratories in Songdo. It will not be until 2023 when it is expected that this biotechnological cluster will be built by Samsung, which will cover facilities of more than 20,000 square meters, as described by the Korea Herald.
As they explain, there are currently more than 60 biotech-related companies in Songdo. These organizations provide around 7,000 jobs in the city, one-tenth of its population. With the economic and social impulses of the government, they project to have around 47,000 workers in this industry within five years.
A clear focus for the city might help to finally stop being a ghost town and come to life as it was proposed from the beginning. In any case, we will have to wait a few more years to see if the investments actually come true and if, above all, the city is filled with inhabitants as planned more than a decade ago when all the (intelligent, technological and ecological) were still being built. infrastructure.
In full promotion of the city, Songdo has been depicted on the Kaleidoscope map from Battlefield 2042. A huge and prosperous city, but it still seems like years away.
Songdo, for now, remains more promise than reality to live in it.