Digital Media City is a high-tech complex for digital technologies in Sangam, Seoul. Started in 2001, it was planned to construct an information metropolis for high-tech digital media corporations, and create a multi-purpose town to meet the challenges of information technology and globalization.
Development Scale: District
Total Development Cost: N/A since it is still in progress
Total Land Area: 569,925m2
Total Development Area: business area of 335,134m2 and public area of 234,791m2
Area Type: Urban Area - Downtown/Central Business Area
Start Date: 2001/02/01
Opening Date: 2002/05/20
Planning Approval: Basic Plan for Digital Media City (August 2001)
Lead Developer: Seoul Metropolitan Government
Consultants: Seoul Development Institute, DMC Promotion Agency, Media Valley, Accenture, Hillwood Strategic Service, MIT Graduate school of Urban Studies and Architecture, KT, Information and Communications University (ICU), Samsung SDS, SH Corporation, Seoul Business Agency (SBA), Wooshin Environment Consulting, Shigam Engineering, KDA Architectural Firm, Soto
The most significant benefits of the project are economical. Though recent statistics do not exist, the DMC hosted 870 companies as of January 2016. According to a 2013 report, 741 companies were located in the DMC as of 2012, of which 387 belonged to the target industries of the project. Moreover, there were 21 foreign-invested companies. 32,245 people were employed in these companies, which was more than double the figure in 2008. The Seoul Metropolitan Government was able to collect much more taxes from the new business activities in the area. Furthermore, due to the economies of aggregation and specialization that arise from many firms concentrated in the area, the DMC is now regarded as a media and information hub to many people.
The social benefits of the project are very subtle and indirect. The official report on the project insists that the DMC is a hub that includes every aspect of the media industry as well as diverse support programs for the high-tech knowledge industry. Therefore, the project is assumed to create an environment that will allow entrepreneurs, middle and small sized firms, as well as major companies to cooperate and realize creative ideas for commercial gains, which in turn is expected to help create a more sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem. Furthermore, local residents are involved in management of the area by communicating with companies (including CoNet, a gathering of companies). Lastly, though not mentioned in any of the official documents, we can assume that the project will create new spaces for local residents to enjoy and interact with each other. For instance, the DMC project area contains a park, many open public spaces, and many cafes and restaurants where residents can convene.
The most significant characteristic of the site is its history as a landfill for Seoul’s waste from 1978 to 1993. The Sangam area, including the nearby Nanjido island, contained waste produced in the metropolitan area, which were dumped and piled up to produce a garbage mountain. The project area is 569,925m2, with a business area of 335,134m2 and public area of 234,791m2. Since the project site was a landfill, there are no available numbers and statistics before the project. However, the empty site also allowed the DMC project to produce many buildings and units. Although many people focus only on the economic aspects of the DMC project, its environmental impacts are substantial. Thousands of trees were planted in the once barren area. Moreover, DMC has become a test bed for “green” technology and urban restoration in South Korea. State of the art energy technologies were used in many of the buildings to reduce environmental footprints.
It was a landfill for Seoul’s waste from 1978 to 1993. The Sangam area, including the nearby Nanjido island, contained waste produced in the metropolitan area, which were dumped and piled up to produce a garbage mountain.
l March 1997: Designation of the Sangam Area as a ‘Housing Site Development Project District(택지개발사업지구)’ l July 1998: Announcement of ‘Basic Plan for New Seoul Town(새서울타운 조성 기본계획)’ l April 2000: Announcement of ‘Basic Plan for Sangam New Millennium New City(상암 새천년 신도시 기본계획)’
DMC aims to become the world's leading innovative complex of digital multimedia companies and a cyber enterprise district that ensures economic, cultural, environmental prosperity in the new millennium. l By providing the best environment for information media industries, DMC will l Create the most suitable business environment for entrepreneurs and help them shape the future of information media technology. l Supply consumers of high-tech information media with high value-added services. l Transform Korea into the technology hub in Northeast Asia and the economic and cultural center of the region in the 21st century. Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2001, “The Digital Media City Master Plan”
The Digital Media City Master Plan (2001) lays out two objectives: (1) construct an exclusive information metropolis for local and global high-tech digital media corporations, and (2) create a futuristic, environmental-friendly multi-purpose town to help the city of Seoul meet the challenges of information technology and globalization. Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2001, “The Digital Media City Master Plan”
lDMC Image creation as information city lGuarantee the link between facilities & reasonable city function arrangement lGuide to balance between public & private facilities lEcological development lEconomical development
The objectives also puts forward the DMC Vision, which includes three main objectives. First is to develop a complex where high-tech digital businesses gather to improve national competitiveness. This complex should emerge as a new aspiring business location in Northeast Asia. Second is to create a city that serves as a ‘gateway’ to serve a unified Korea. The city should be an ‘ecological city’ where people and environment coexist and also a ‘hub of information exchange’ with seamless IT infrastructure. Third is to realize a self-sufficient city that offers pleasant working conditions and advanced IT infrastructure.
The master plan presents five issues with directions: lDMC Image creation as information city lGuarantee the link between facilities & reasonable city function arrangement lGuide to balance between public & private facilities lEcological development lEconomical development
In terms of actual legal dimension, the DMC consists of residential area (2nd class residential district, 3rd class residential district, semi-residential area), general commercial area and green belt zone. Broadcast stations, cultural facilities, state-of-the-art business facilities, residential facilities, park, offices, conference rooms, seminar rooms, restaurants, cafes, amenities, museums are the actual use of the case.
l March 1997: Designation of the Sangam Area as a ‘Housing Site Development Project District(택지개발사업지구)’ l July 1998: Announcement of ‘Basic Plan for New Seoul Town(새서울타운 조성 기본계획)’ l April 2000: Announcement of ‘Basic Plan for Sangam New Millennium New City(상암 새천년 신도시 기본계획)’ l August 2001: Announcement of ‘Basic Plan for Digital Media City(디지털 미디어 시티 기본계획)’ l January 2002: Ordinance of the ‘Support of the Digital Media City (DMC 지원조례)’ l May 2002: DMC Project Implementation Strategy (DMC사업실행전략), DMC Information and Communication Infrastructure Construction Master Plan (DMC 정보통신 인프라 구축 마스터플랜), and the Announcement of DMC 1st stage land supply (DMC 1단계 용지공급 공고) l May 2010: DMC Comprehensive Development Plan(DMC 종합발전계획)
There is no data at this point, but the latest statistics available produced in January 2016 indicate that 48 lots of land out of 52 have been supplied and that 86.0% (288,812.m2) of the site area have been sold. However, they are still trying to build buildings in the remaining areas and continues to attract businesses to minimize vacancy rates.
I think this case is a significant example of environmental and economic urban regeneration. By converting an unused, hazardous landfill into an economic district, the DMC created many jobs and economic values as well as environmental benefits for the local community.
By looking at the experiences of the DMC, I think cities and communities that wish to achieve both economic and environmental benefits can learn valuable lessons. This is particularly important for many developing countires that want to attract more high-tech industries and also improve their local environment.
The DMC project is undoubtedly a successful economic development project that has transformed an environmentally hazardous landfill to an industrial powerhouse in one of the economically excluded regions of Seoul. The economic benefits of the project is obvious, as it succeeded in attracting major media companies such as MBC, SBS, CJ, and YTN and also numerous small and middle sized firms. These companies pay taxes to the local government and they also created many jobs in an area that did not have much employment opportunities. Therefore, the project produced economic and environmental benefits while partly solving Seoul’s economic inequality and severe congestion caused by people commuting from the Northwestern area for jobs in the Gangnam area and CBD.
However, we should also think in terms of opportunity costs. First, what if the public decided to attract other industries? Although the DMC should have been an ICT hub as well, there are not many large ICT companies located in the area. Considering that ICT companies create huge economic values nowadays, the DMC could have done better to attract more ICT firms and venture businesses. Second, the DMC was initially designed as office development, not mixed-use development, meaning there is lack of land-use diversity. Since the vast area mostly consists of office buildings, the DMC is “hollowed out” in the evening when people get off from their work. Owners of local businesses such as restaurants have complained that there are no customers other than weekday lunches but the rent is extremely high. In the long run, the area may also be subject to crime because there is no one at night.
Moreover, the public did not have much communicative processes when developing plans for the area. Communicative planning procedures began to formally take place in South Korea only after 2010s. The designing of the DMC project included the private sector and many experts under the public sector’s supervision. However, there were no opportunities for citizens, particularly local residents, to give their opinions. Even until very recently, local residents have been complaining about public-led developments. For instance, in August 2020, there was a rally against public plans to provide public housing in DMC area because local residents feared that this may lead to congestion and reduced quality of life. I think it was worth the investment, but as I have mentioned, I also think still some improvement points remain.
"Digital Media City 10-year History and Development Direction”, “The Digital Media City Master Plan”