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In Focus: Seoul, South Korea

High-rise buildings and streets that never sleep

High-rise buildings and streets that never sleep

In the 1960s, after being ravaged by the Korean War, urban planners in Seoul rebuilt their city on the plans that Karachi was progressing on. Five decades later, Karachi is a shadow of its former self, while Seoul is now one of (if not the) most, high-tech and advanced cities in the world.

Blazing fast Internet… Although Seoul has the world’s fastest internet infrastructure, the city plans to go even further by having every connection upgraded to one gb/second by the end of the year – over 1,000 times faster than a one mb/second connection! With internet connectivity that fast, it’s not uncommon to find a typical household watching TV, playing games and connecting their smart appliances to the same connection.

Smart streets and subways… Take a walk around Seoul and you will see people thronging ‘media poles’. These poles are embedded with flat screens that people use to send e-mails, download files, take pictures or watch videos while waiting at a street corner. The city also boasts its own navigation app called Fing which pedestrians can use to navigate Seoul’s streets and labyrinthine subway system.

Teheranno Road in Gangnam District

Teheranno Road in Gangnam District

Food and games… Seoul’s street vendors and restaurants are so renowned that Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas partnered with Intel to go on the ‘UltraBook Project’ across the city, using only his laptop to find, dine and document the city’s best eateries. Besides food, Seoul also has a burgeoning gaming community; PC bangs (gaming centres) catering to gamers are a typical sight on most commercial streets and provide a place for them to meet and indulge in games such as Diablo and World of Warcraft.

The ubiquitous city… Like Masdar in Abu Dhabi, Seoul is building Songdo within its limits. Sangdo is intended to be the world’s ‘smartest city’; offices there will be equipped with computerised parking systems that will identify executives, direct their cars to parking spots and cue their elevators to stop on the floors they work on. Once there, climate-control, office lighting and workspace systems will automatically adjust themselves, depending on the amount of activity at the workplace.

In a nutshell… Currently the most wired city in the world, by 2015, Seoul plans to be the most wireless and smartest, one where real-time information will be used pre-emptively in public services such as subways, street lights, etc. Seoul is clearly the city of the future.

– Mariam Sajjad

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 9, 2012.