Creating a Human City: Review of the Suwon Forum 2018

For the past 3 years, CityNet and Suwon City have collaborated to organize the Suwon Forum which is an annual event centered on the creation of an “Asia Human City” and was made to facilitate the sharing of best practices and strategies needed to create a better living environment for the population. This year’s theme was titled “Human Cities for All” and featured topics such as Urban Regeneration, Housing Welfare, Urban Resilience, and Civic Democracy.

This year, on September 17th-18th, I had the opportunity to work as a staff member for the 2018 Suwon Forum. Before attending the event, I had little knowledge to what the concept of a Human City meant, but I discovered that there are varying meanings behind a seemingly simple term.

Within the overall theme, three sessions with sub-themes took place in order to provide insight into the various factors that are needed to create a Human City:

  1. A City Where Everyone is Happy
  2. A City Where People are Always Safe
  3. A City Where Anything is Possible

Speakers and participants weighed in on the numerous aspects behind a Human City and what contributes to its creation. A main element that was highlighted was the need for public participation. For instance, Oswar Mungkasa, the Deputy Governor of Jakarta, shared this when giving his idea of a Human City; a place in which the government and citizens work in collaboration and co-create the city, and one where the population can have a role in developing city policies and implementing them.


Another aspect that was frequently noted for a Human City was the importance of environmental sustainability through the incorporation of various ecological elements such as greater walkability, the creation of public spaces, and efficient and affordable public transportation through the use of BRT systems. For Taoyuan, Jiunn-Ming Chiou, the Deputy Secretary General of the city, expressed how one of the ways that they are working to achieve a human-oriented city is by improving the air quality and implementing more low carbon practices. One of their initiatives is the use of energy efficient infrastructure and housing, as 86 buildings of the city having attained GREE certification.

As the forum progressed, it became increasingly evident that a Human City was a multifaceted concept with many cities now developing an array of policies to implement in order to achieve this. However, the term itself started in Suwon.

A couple of years ago, the Mayor of Suwon, Tae Young Yeom, gave Suwon this concept of being a Human City. At this year’s Suwon Forum, he expressed the vision for the city; one that welcomes and values people, and is a place in which citizens have a role and opportunity to actively participate. During the forum, much was mentioned about the former king of Suwon who lead many initiatives for his citizens and constructed the Suwon fortress which is now a proud emblem for the history of the city.

On the second day, after the closing ceremony of the event, participants were taken on a site visit to the Hwaseong Fortress mentioned during the event, along with the Haenggung-dong Mural Village and the Hanok Technology Exhibition Hall in order for the forum’s participants to learn more about Suwon’s history and traditional heritage. With a walk through the city, one can see how deeply connected the city is to its culture and citizens. The well-maintained 222 year old fortress, the preservation of the traditional Hanok architectural style, and even small historical representations of past citizens painted along the pathways depict the value that Suwon has for its people, history, and culture.

During the site visits, I noticed that the collaboration from the people of Suwon can be seen throughout the city. In the Haenggung-dong Mural Village, the city is able to represent the people of the past through art representations made by the citizens of the present day. The art in the village also helps represents elements of a Human City as, during the tour, the guide noted how the artists and owners of the houses in the village collaborated on the design for the murals. One of them was even created by the community as the artist had laid out art supplies in front of the wall and allowed citizens to join in the process of creating the mural for the city.

The words “Human City Suwon—사람이 반갑습니다 (people welcome)” were even written in various places throughout the city.

Although having a Human City is a new concept, the practices shared by all in attendance at the Suwon Forum will help spread this idea across Asia, and I’m certain that the Suwon Forum will further this initiative for many years to come.

Serena_bio_imgSerena Spurgeon
Serena Spurgeon received a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages and International Studies at the University of North Alabama, and is currently pursuing a Specialization Master’s degree in International Relations at the Univeristà Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy. She was a co-author in political research conferenced at the Midwest Political Science Organization in 2018. Her areas of interest include environmental sustainability, SDGs, human development, and peace and conflict studies.

Global Warming from a Korean Perspective

Tourists on the Han River

Tourists on the Han River

Rising global temperatures are an increasingly alarming phenomenon. You may have read articles illustrating the side effects of global warming or you may have seen images of polar bears resting on melting icebergs. You may even think of some islands and coastal areas that are in danger of going underwater. Today I will focus on one area. How does global warming affect our lives in Korea?

According to an article “Rise in Korea’s sea temperature triples global average” written by The Korean Herald on September 1st, 2013, Korea’s sea temperature has tripled when compared with the global average. I found this shocking. While I could see that Korea’s spring and fall were getting shorter each year, I did not realize this larger, systemic change was the cause.

What kinds of thing will happen in our warmer seas? Rising sea temperatures will change the type of fish we can catch surrounding Korea. You may even be able to catch tropical fish in the near future. On the other hand, rising sea temperatures will make it more difficult for Korea’s indigenous fish population to thrive. There may be massive die-offs. Either way, the fishing industry and economy will be directly affected.

Global warming is not a phenomenon affecting countries far away from Korea’s territory. It already stands before you! Korean citizens should focus on the issue of global warming and try to mitigate it through our personal actions before it gets worse.

Bus lanes in downtown Seoul cut through heavy traffic and reduce pollution

Bus lanes in downtown Seoul cut through heavy traffic and reduce pollution

What can we, as individuals in Korea, do to make conditions better or at least stabilize current circumstances? First of all, we have to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we produce. Cars are the main emitters of CO2 in Korea. We can use alternative or public transportation more often, and if we have to use a car, we can carpool with others. This can give us a chance to get to know our neighbors! Bikes, skateboards or roller blades are another alternative that also offers good physical activity for the day!

In Korea, we also need to recycle more products, and purchase recycled products. Korea is a heavy consumer country, so our purchasing choices are important. Koreans can buy more eco-friendly and recycled products. If you have any other suggestions for fighting global warming in Korea, leave them in the comments below!

CaptureYegi Jang

Disclaimer: The posts and comments on this site do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CITYNET or its members.

Sustainable Transportation: A Basic Human Right

Hello lovely readers of the CITYNET blog,

My name is Nikola Medimorec and for the past month I have been working as an intern at CITYNET. My main task is to assist in preparing a sustainable urban transport workshop. Therefore, I would like to show you what sustainable transport means to me.

IMG_9648Every day I commute over 40 km in one direction. It sounds like a lot but it doesn’t take more than 1 hour by bus. On the expressway my bus uses the bus-only lane to pass traffic jams. I arrive at my destination faster with public transport than I would by car. Another advantage is that I use my commute very efficiently: I study for university, answer emails, read news or take a nap. All these things are impossible to do while driving.

Of course, a crucial aspect of sustainable transport is the environment. It’s important that we don’t only think about how to get from A to B but also about how we do it on the most environment-friendly way. Walking and cycling are the best solutions for short distances and then we have public transport for medium distances. Longer distances can be overcome by train or express-bus. Korea has excellent public transport and it works hard in improving the urban environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

20120818_181544In my opinion, transport is a basic need of humans. Public transport plays an important role in enabling all people to travel to different places. We have to travel to work to earn money, to school to get education, to hospital to get treatment and to places to meet friends. People, who can’t afford a car (or don’t want to buy one), get the chance do all these basic things. Thus, sustainable transport also sustains equality in society.

20120817_153451In short, sustainable transport is about efficiency, environment and basic human need. Even though it seems so simple, there are still many cities in the world, which are building inner-city highways, expanding streets and prefer cars over public transport. I hope that the seminar on sustainable urban transport in September, organized by CITYNET and The Korea Transport Institute, is going show an alternative way of urban planning to the participants. Until then, I’ll continue to commute every day and enjoy my time in the bus.

nikola2by Nikola Medimorec, CITYNET Intern
Co-Author of
Disclaimer: The posts and comments on this site do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CITYNET or its members.