Place & space Culture & identity Systems, resources & power
Would you be a good
Picture in your mind the main street of your nearest city or large town.
Imagine that you have just read about a proposal for an exciting new development in that street. It involves
the restoration of an historic stream that originally flowed where the street was built.
I Brainstorm and create a list of impacts that this development might have during its construction, and
after its completion. For example, would it have an impact on traffic flow? Would it have an impact on
local traders along the street? And so on. Organise your ideas under these three headings:
Impacts on people Impacts on the human-made Impacts on the natural
2 Decide if each impact would be mainly positive, or mainly negative.
The introduction above called this an ‘exciting’ development. But not every person
By the end of this unit students will
might find it exciting, and approve of it. Some might find it threatening, and
be better able to:
3 List any people or groups in the community who might oppose the • understand how human activities
affect the environment
development, and briefly explain their likely reasons.
• appreciate how uses of the
4 What do you think the body responsible for this development would need to do environment can change over time
before it decided to go ahead with this development? Make a list of the things • analyse and apply good planning
that you think would need to happen. For example, they might need to consult principles to address the impacts
with experts; or consult with local people; or do a traffic impact survey; etc. of change
This situation is actually being faced at the moment on a grand scale in one of • identify changes and continuities
the great cities of the world, Seoul, in South Korea. in attitudes to sustainable
The issues the developers are facing, and the ways they are going about development in an Asian area
developing solutions and strategies, can tell us much about principles of • reflect on the significance of place
environmental development and sustainability in an urban context. Look at the in a society
information that follows and make your decision: What do you do with the • consider the idea of ‘stewardship’
Cheonggye stream? You will then be able to apply the model you develop to a in urban developments.
real development in your own area.
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This article focuses on a development in 6 What is your image of South Korea? What is your image of Seoul?
South Korea, in Seoul. List the words and ideas that you first think of.
5 Identify South Korea on this map. You
may need to go to an atlas to check if South Korea Seoul
you are correct, or go to
Web Activity y2XDL South Korea is one of the great economic success stories of
modern Asia. Read the Background Briefing below and then
test yourself as a decision maker!
to see some images of South Korea and Seoul, and decide
if each image surprises you, or is what you expected. You Background Briefing
will see such images as these in full size there.
South Korea has a long history as a civilised and cultured
The peninsula was first inhabited about 30,000 years ago
by people from central and northern Asia. These tribes
gradually came together to form a united people.
By 700 AD an indigenous Korean culture, literature,
language and arts had developed, and continued to flower
over the next centuries.
In 1904 Japan invaded Korea, and in 1910 officially
claimed control of it. The Japanese remained there until
their defeat at the end of World War II in 1945. Since then
the Korean peninsula has been divided into two:
democratic South Korea and communist North Korea.
In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea. A sixteen-
nation United Nations force, led by the United States and
including Australian troops, was sent to the peninsula to
fight for the South against the North and its Chinese allies.
Over three years several million Koreans, soldiers and
civilians, were killed, and much of the country was
destroyed in bitter fighting.
An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the Peninsula
along a demilitarised zone at about the 38th parallel. On
August 15, 1948 the Republic of Korea was established,
with Syngman Rhee as the first president; on September
9, 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was
established under Kim Il Sung.
South Korea now experienced years of political turmoil
under years of autocratic leadership. Military coups and
assassinations characterized the country’s first decades.
But a vocal civil society emerged that led to strong
protests against authoritarian rule, paving the road for the
first democratic elections in 1987.
Despite this, the country had achieved extraordinary
economic growth under a series of five-year plans, starting
in 1962. The initial emphasis was on industrialisation, and
accelerated a structural readjustment of industry from
subsistence agriculture to modern manufacturing and
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During the second stage of the economic development plan,
the government continued with the expansion of mostly labor
intensive export industries. A New Village Movement
(Saemaul Undong) helped modernise rural areas and
reduced income variances between urban and rural residents.
Over the past thirty-five years Korea has enjoyed an annual
average growth of 8.6 percent and has grown into the world’s
11th largest trading nation. In less than two generations,
Korea has established itself as one of the world’s leading
shipbuilders and manufacturers of electronics, semi-
conductors and automobiles.
You can find out more about the industrialisation of Korea on
page 41 of this edition of STUDIES, and see the ‘Korea in
Brief’ table at:
What do you do with
the Cheonggye Stream?
Making decisions – 1962 style
It is 1962 and you are a decision-maker in Seoul.
The main waterway is the Han River, a large river that is
important for trade.
There is another waterway, the Cheonggye stream, which
flows right through the middle of Seoul.
Some images of the old Cheonggye stream
Seoul was basically built around it, and it used to be an
important cultural part of the city, particularly some of the
Cheonggye stream is one that offers a large space that can
bridges, which were the focus of traditional social activities.
be used to help Seoul modernise.
In 1760 it was widened and straightened, but since then
A proposal has been put to complete the filling in of the
has slowly silted up. These days there is usually very little
stream, and create an elevated freeway over it, and a
water in it.
commercial area under it.
However, it is subject to periodical flooding because when
What do you do with the stream? There are three options:
it does flow freely it drains into the Han river, and water
• leave it as it is
cannot force its way into that major river, so backs up.
• fill it in and create a modern freeway along the route with
Many dispossessed people lived along its banks in shanties, a commercial area
and make it very polluted with rubbish and sewerage, • restore it to create a beautiful environment.
making it very unhealthy, and a breeding ground for disease.
7 Discuss the options, and make your choice.
It was covered over in part by the Japanese during the
1930s and 1940s. The decision that was made was to fill it in and create a
modern freeway and commercial area.
Now, some people believe that it needs to be developed
further. 8 What do you think would have been the main reasons
Seoul, and all of South Korea, needs to develop industrially at the time for that choice being made?
if the people of the nation are to have a good standard of 9 What values does that decision suggest were the most
living. A modern urban industrialised society needs roads, important ones for that society at that time?
cars, factories and shops. These will help provide jobs and
10 How would you decide or judge if that was a good
the development that are needed for Korea to modernise.
decision? Discuss possible criteria to apply.
There are few areas that can be developed easily, but the
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What do you do with There are limited areas in the city where tourists and locals
can enjoy a quiet and calm natural environment. Some
tourists even refer unkindly but with some element of
the Cheonggye Stream? justification to ‘soulless Seoul’.
Public attitudes to growth and development have changed
over time, with much greater awareness of the need for
Making decisions – 2003 style sustainable development, rather than just development.
A proposal has been put to pull down the freeway and
restore the old Chonggye stream.
It is now 2003.
What do you do? There are three options:
South Korea is recognised as a leading Asian nation.
• leave it all as it is and see how long it lasts
In 1988 Seoul hosted a very successful Olympic Games, • repair the freeway system
and in 2002 an equally successful World Cup in soccer. • restore the stream to create a beautiful environment.
The Cheonggye freeway is starting to decay. It is in need 11 Discuss the options, and make your choice.
of major structural repair, and traffic has been restricted to
passenger vehicles only. The decision that was made was to tear down the freeway
system and restore the stream.
The area along the freeway has become stagnated in its
development. The area is ugly, and exhaust fumes are 12 What do you think would have been the main reasons
unpleasant, as the images below show. for that choice being made?
It is crowded, noisy, and an eyesore, with many small 13 What values does that decision suggest are the most
‘flea-markets’ and street vendors in the area. important ones for that society at this time?
14 How would you decide or judge if that was a good
This last question is a very difficult one to answer, but there
are ways of approaching it that help us with critically
analysing any development situation.
15 Here is some more information about the development.
What issues do they raise that must be dealt with in the
• 220,000 merchants will be affected by development
to the area covered by the freeway system.
• 170,000 vehicles per day will be affected – 63%
of them use the freeway for transit, 37% to a city
• The average vehicle speed is 28.8 kph.
• 19,000 buses use the freeway per day, which is
25% of all Seoul bus traffic.
• There are 6,000 buildings that will be affected by
the development (29% office, 49% commercial,
• Surrounding streets will be made into a one-way
grid to allow smoother traffic flows.
• There will be additional development of bus routes
to reduce private car use.
• The development will include the new stream, its
banks, and a two-lane road on either side, but will not
involve the surrounding buildings and their size, use,
style or ‘adornments’ (such as advertising signs).
16 Create a set of steps that you would follow in reaching
a decision, and then implementing any changes. For
example, would you survey the local people? Would
you educate people? Would you consult with experts?
List your steps in order, and then compare your
sequence to what has actually been done.
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Here is what has actually been done.
1 There is recognition that a problem exists.
What will the new
2 Alternative proposals are considered.
3 Information is gathered on the feasibility of various
solutions or options.
4 A committee is set up – including specialists,
academics, interested parties, local people.
look like ?
5 A decision is made.
18 Look at the images below and on the back cover of this
issue of STUDIES to see an artist’s images of the
6 Development is planned to occur in stages.
completed stream. Create a list of the features that
7 Plans are created to minimise the impacts of you notice. (For example, notice the grass banks,
development at each stage, for example by working recreation space, etc.
out traffic flow strategies that will minimise
interruption to normal travel routes and times. You can see more detail at
8 An education process is implemented to explain the www.auskorea.com/korean_casestudies
development and its impacts.
9 Development starts.
Here are some of the words used in an official brochure
about the development:
17 Compare it with your list. Is this a good approach? Do
you think there are any other stages or elements that • Attractive waterfront
should have been included? Discuss your answers. • Enjoyable
• Green axis linking other areas
• Neighbouring areas to grow
• Transform image
• Human and natural interaction
19 Do you think the brochure is justified in using these
descriptions of the development? Explain your reasons
in each case.
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Reflection and follow-up activities
Look at this chart of various elements that have to be considered with an environmental development issue.
20 Complete the chart for the Cheonggye stream development.
What is the proposed change?
Where is this change to be made?
Why is the change being made?
Environmental planning guide
Cheonggye stream development
A development in your own area
What are the expected outcomes of the change?
What will be the impacts of the change on:
• the environment?
• the economy?
Who will benefit from the change?
Who will suffer as a result of the change?
What will it cost?
Who will pay?
What information is needed to assess it?
Are there other alternatives available?
What process is being used to implement it?
Whose input is needed?
Who makes the decision?
Has a good decision been made?
Would you support this change?
21 Look at your own home, school or local area. Consider
a possible environmental development – such as an
urban forest element in your school, or a native plant
area of your garden, or a stream restoration project in
your community. Complete this planning guide, and then
discuss the feasibility of your ideas. Are there any other
elements that need to be added to this chart?
23 Imagine that you have the chance to visit Seoul in 10
22 The Cheonggye area is a symbol of the changes that years’ time. What will you find? Choose one of the three
have occurred in Korea over time. ‘Looking back, there different stretches of the Cheonggye Stream
is no place that more represents Seoul’s history and redevelopment shown at www.auskerea.com and try to
development during the past 50 years more than predict what changes might have occurred over this time.
Cheonggyecheon. The stream has gone from a symbol 24 Imagine that the Seoul Metropolitan Government has
of filth and poverty at the end of the 1950s to a symbol asked you to prepare an educational and information
of industrialization and modernization in the 1960s and brochure on ‘Seoul – City of culture and environment
1970s. It’s gone from being the center of urban industries in the 21st century’. Prepare a section describing the
including tools, printing and apparel to an obstacle to Cheonggye stream in that brochure. The class might
urban redevelopment in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2003, also select other elements – such as sport, culture,
uncovering the Cheonggyecheon stream and repairing heritage, shopping, arts, music – and different groups
40 years of damage is becoming reality. A new page in the could each contribute a section to the brochure. The
history of the Cheonggyecheon stream will soon begin.’ Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Canberra would
(www.visitseoul.net/english_new/cheonggye/c_history/c_ be delighted to see your work!
history_06.htm) Is there a similar place or site in your
For more information on progress of the Cheonggye stream
community that illustrates changes in attitudes and values
project go to the Seoul Metropolitan Government website at
over time? Discuss this idea.
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