Smart Cities opportunities in South Korea

The long history of Smart Cities in different names
Urban development plans in South Korea in the 20th century were managed by the state and the large private conglomerates which caused growing urban issues which was a global trend towards urbanization. The plans have led to many issues in large cities such as congestion, environmental degradation and poor building standards being exacerbated by the rapid industrialization.

For the last 15 years, the Korean government has tried to cope with urban issues such as high urban density using new technologies. One of the first titles was “U-Cities” where U as Ubiquitous connections. Both central and regional governments see U-cities as a sustainable growth engine in the sectors of construction, e-city (ICT) infrastructure and service solutions. Although it solved minor problems of the urbanization, it was not quite enough since U-cities were more of technology-driven projects. Ever since then, the Korean Government pushed for the sustainable, human-centric urban development under the theme of “SmartCity” or “K-SmartCity”.

Testbeds for the smart cities initiatives
Korea dominates the Bloomberg Innovation Index, which scored economies using factors such as R&D spending, number of patents and concentration of high-tech companies. Korea is also the most wired country in the world. The entire population has access to 4G connectivity and local broadband providers are at the forefront of 5G development.

Korea has recently announced a blueprint for the administrative hub of Sejong and the south-eastern port city of Busan to be testbeds for the realization of smart cities. Various innovative technologies, ranging from unmanned vehicles to facial recognition systems, will be adopted in parts of the two urban areas to make them into the world-class smart cities, as said by the Presidential Committee on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Sejong, a city in central South Korea will utilize unmanned vehicles and Busan will focus on global logistics under the theme of new future life centred on nature, people and technology. The total research funds will be approximately USD 116 million provided by the Korean government for 5 years.

Areas of opportunities for Norwegian companies
Since Korea has launched the Smart City national project, this initiative can help Korea address climate change and reach reduction targets concerning greenhouse gas emissions in terms of the development of cities. Thus, it would be the policy that will help Korea achieve the Paris agreement. This, together with the collected views of experts from industry, academia and research institutes, has led to a national roadmap for Smart Cities development. Although there are many focus areas in Smart Cities, the following are the sectors that represent areas of opportunities for Norwegian companies:

  • Smart Transportation
    The aim is to build a nationwide charging infrastructure that will allow electric vehicles to be charged anywhere. A vehicle-to-grid system is also planned, which will charge batteries of electric vehicles during off-peak times and resell surplus electricity during peak times. Also, autonomous vehicles, trucks and ships are in the actual testing phase in Korea.
  • Smart Energy & Power Grid
    Innovation in interconnections between consumption and supply sources is the goal here. This will allow for new business models to arise and improve power grid malfunction and automatic recovery systems to ensure a reliable and high-quality power supply. The Korean government plans to increase the share of new and renewable energy in the entire primary energy to 11.0% (13.4% of the total electric power) by 2035.
  • Smart Buildings
    Energy self-sufficiency of houses, buildings and villages is the ultimate goal. The aim is to build smart renewable energy power management complexes across the nation by rolling out microgrids and deploying small-scale renewable energy generation units for every end-user.
  • Smart Hospitals
    Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (SNUBH) is one example of a next frontier healthcare system. SNUBH recovers USD 275 million in revenue per year. It operates with a force of 515 physicians, 780 nurses and 640 staff. Since 2003, SNUBH has been acting as South Korea’s national medical research hospital.
  • Smart Governance
    Korea ranked first in the UN e-Government Survey for three consecutive terms. The Korean gov-ernment has worked for decades to build and improve its e-government systems, launching inno-vative e-public services such as e-procurement system and 24-hour public service portal. As a re-sult, most of the public services are delivered online now, making the Korean government ever more transparent.
  • Construction of Testbeds for Smart Cities
    The Governmental Smart Cities Committee has been inaugurated and the actual cities for Testbeds were announced as Sejong and Busan, and the existing Smart cities such as Songdo, Sungnam, Kimpo, and Goyang are continuously looking for a new technology partner to make the city smarter at a local governmental level.

We see that one of the promising areas for Norwegian companies in Korea is the Smart Transportation area, especially on the Smart Sensors related to Transportation and Weather due to the needs of current obstacles that Korea has faced. Other areas for Norwegian companies are the Smart Ship area since Norway is a world-leading maritime nation and is at the forefront of sustainable technology development, as well as the Renewable Energy and Construction sectors.

For more information, please contact:
Insu Jason Park
Senior adviser
Innovation Norway, Seoul
T: +82 2 2096 2974

SmartCity Korea 3D Animation (video)
Arirang Special – Smart city strategy (video)
Seoul, a smart green city (video)

Photo: Sunyu Kim,

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