Digital Media City

Seoul, Korea

Dennis Frenchman and Michael Joroff

In the late 1990s, the Seoul government first proposed a project that would capitalize on the status of Korea, with its rapidly growing multi-media, IT and entertainment industries, as the world’s most wired nation. The Digital Media City (DMC) aims to promote these industries — as well as companies whose core business requires the use of information, communication, and media technologies — to grow and prosper in the global business environment. The DMC project serves the nation’s larger goals of transitioning from a manufacturing to an innovation economy and promoting Seoul as an east-Asian hub for commerce. The Seoul government is using its process for creating the Digital Media City to spawn partnerships, which in turn will leverage the development of human and social capital. Rather than being an isolated hub of high technology in the fields of digital media and entertainment, the DMC is a major nexus that will feed, and be fed by, the innovation of more than 10,000 small-scale Internet, game, and telecommunication firms already located in Seoul.

The new district will be the home of digital media R&D firms; firms that create cultural material; companies whose core business benefits from digital media technologies; digital broadcasting centers; technology-oriented office space; and firms that either create or provide entertainment. Schools, housing for the affiliates of international firms, moderate and lower-income housing, commercial and convention facilities, entertainment zones, and the city’s central rail station are all located in or near the Digital Media City.

The Digital Media City is part of the larger Millennium City project in the Sangam-dong district of Seoul, 4 miles (7km) from the central business district. Millennium City, conceived as a new town center, also encompasses the World Cup Soccer Park, a major transportation hub, and the restored Nanji-do landfill.

The project’s initial funding from the Seoul Metropolitan Government is being used to leverage the involvement of private technology partners and developers. The project was planned by the metropolitan government with the assistance of the Seoul Development Institute (SDI), a public think tank established by the City of Seoul, and is being implemented by the development arm of the City government.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government provided the IT broadband and wireless networks that serve the area, constructed the infrastructure, and provided tax incentives and favorably-priced land for the most desirable tenants. These “magnet” tenants will attract other firms to the area, because of their business relationships or because their presence brands the area as a prestige location. The Korean national government has located several key IT and cultural agencies within the Digital Media City.

A major feature of the project is Digital Media Street, which will host entertainment and retail establishments, technology companies, prestige housing, R&D institutions, and universities. Digital Media Street is an opportunity to develop and test new technologies, and to refine them in a living laboratory environment. The street will mix entertainment and retail uses with technology companies, incorporating the most advanced and interesting digital urban devices. A permeable realm that blurs the transitional edge between public and private space will be created by juxtaposing digital information with physical places. The street will run smoothly: maintenance operations of light fixtures and utilities can be controlled digitally, while dynamic street marking and sensors will encourage efficient traffic flow. The street will be informative: interpretive maps and guides will be available on the street and through mobile phones or other personal devices. The shopping experience will be flexible: ubiquitous credit sensing will create stores without check-out lines while “thin shops” will allow people to feel the goods and order custom products for home delivery. Finally, the street will be rich and interesting: coordinated digital displays will set the mood for events, while portals to sister cities will afford glimpses into different places. Technology will effectively serve and manage, as well as entertain.