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Insa-dong Cultural District

Development Type: Other

Type Of Developer: Non-Profit

Start Year: 1998

Address: Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea


Contributor: audex


Location Description
Insa-dong Cultural District faces Gyeongbokgung Palace and Gwanghwamun Square to the west, and Ikseon-dong and Jongmyo Shrine to the east. Jongno and Tapgol Park are located to the south of Insa-dong, and the Cheonggye stream flows in the south. Today's Insadong-gil is a road that covered the river flowing from Samcheong-dong to the Cheonggye stream.

Case Report


Development Info.

Development Scale: District

Total Development Cost: 1,000,000,000 won per year

Total Land Area: 175,743 m2

Total Development Area: 175,743 m2

Area Type: Urban Area - Urban Retail Area

Start Date: 1998/01/01

Opening Date: 2002/04/24

Planning Approval: Insa-dong Culutural District, 21th, April, 1998

Lead Developer: Jongno-gu

Consultants: Seoul Metropolitan City, Jongno-gu, 'Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association(인사전통문화보존회)', 'Insa-dong families(인사동식구들)', 'Insa-dong prosperity society(인사동 번영회)', 'Insa-dong appearance finding meeting(인사동 제모습 찾기 모임)', 'Insa-mo(인사모)'


Economic Context

During the 1986 Asian Games, Insa-dong became a popular attraction for many foreigners. A lot of art and antiques were traded. Insadong-gil was called ‘Mery's Ally’, and foreigners' visits to Insa-dong have been steadily increasing since the Asian Games were held. Seoul had promoted policies to revitalize Insa-dong by improving tourism conditions, attractions, and pedestrian environments. Since the number of domestic and foreign tourists visiting Insa-dong steadily increased, this policy seemed to be a success in economic context. However, this policy caused high rents in the Insa-dong area, and some social and cultural issues emerged.

Social Context

Due to policies that only dealt with economic aspects, the existing Insa-dong commercial districts such as antique stores and galleries were in danger of being pushed out. Recognizing this crisis, the city of Seoul focused on preserving cultural establishments. In 1999, the government tried to prevent cultural changes in the Insa-dong by restricting permission for new construction two years. Especially, in 1999, ‘the Movement to Keep Twelve Stores’ emphasized the necessity of cultural districts in a social context. The site which is located in the center of Insa-dong was sold to a construction company, and a large-scale developing attempt was proceeded. Accordingly, a social movement, led by the ‘Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association’, took place to protect twelve stores on this site. Fortunately, ‘Ssamzie’ company purchased the site and preserved the 12 stores. This movement became an opportunity for both citizens and the government to recognize the need for legal regulations to protect the culture of Insa-dong.

Environmental Context

The 'Traffic-Free Street' is a policy that Jongno-gu and ‘Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association’ have been conducting in Insadong-gil since 1997. This policy had an economic intention to revitalize Insa-dong as a tourist area at the time, but it was a policy that took into account the environmental factors of the city. This environmental policy has been continuously implemented with the designation of the Insa-dong Cultural District since 2002.

Historical Context

Insa-dong is located near Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine since the Joseon Dynasty. Thus, it was an area where the powerful class and artists met frequently. In the Japanese colonial period, a lot of antiques came out to the streets, and numerous shops which sold antiques were formed in Insa-dong. Even after the Japanese colonial period, Insa-dong was still the site of art trade, and the character of this street was maintained until the 1990s. However, when these historic streets were on the verge of losing their historical significance due to the economic policies in the 1990s, an opinion that the designation of a cultural district is necessary has been raised since 1998.

The Plan

Pre-planning Efforts

(1988) Designated Insa-dong as a street of traditional culture in preparation for the Olympics (Seoul City) (1997) 'Traffic-Free Street' held (Jongno-gu/‘Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association’) (1998) Promote enactment of special law on the creation of cultural districts (1999) A Study on the Development of the Cultural District Creation Model and Policy Direction: Focused on Insa-dong (Im Hak-soon/Korea Culture and Tourism Research Institute) (1999) Movement to revive the twelve stores (‘Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association’ ) (2000) Newly established cultural district item in the Seoul City Planning Ordinance (Seoul City) (2000) Creation of a historical and cultural trail (Seoul City) (2002) Designated as a cultural district in Insa-dong (Jongno-gu)

Vision Statement

To create Insa-dong as a region where people from all over the world can experience the historicity of Korean traditional culture and art by preserving the atmosphere as a cultural street that wants to walk with 100 years of tradition, and coexisting with the classic dignity of traditional culture and art and modern change and vitality. (Source : Insa-dong Cultural District Management Plan / Jongno-gu, Seoul; Seoul Municipal Development Institute [Public Edition]. (2003))

Goals and Objectives

1. Protecting Insa-dong's traditional cultural business -Selection of recommended facilities in Insa-dong -Reduction of acquisition tax and registration tax by 50% each when registering a new recommended facility -In case of repairing facilities for the purpose of improving the business environment, a loan is supported up to 50 million won within 80% of the cost. 2. Creating a high-quality Insa-dong -Support for traditional culture programs and events 3. Cultivating the image of Culture Street -Street vendors crackdown, public parking lot security, street cleaning, etc. 4. Care for Insa-dong by the residents themselves -Activities and funding support centered on the ‘Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association’ (Source: Seoul Development Institute(서울시정개발연구원) (2005b: 35-41)

Issues and Problems

-Sudden increase in number of visitors and change of visiting class -Pressure to evict traditional cultural establishments due to rent increases -Destruction of the traditional exterior of Insa-dong, such as the construction of large buildings -Handling of low-end products in the marketplace (Source: Seoul City, 2001, <Study on Designation and Operation of Seoul Cultural District>, p72~74)

Benchmark Projects

1. American urban culture and arts district: Introducing the concept of urban planning zoning (regional district) in the area of preservation of existing buildings. -New York City, Special Theater District Law (1967) prevents theater districts from declining -Pittsburgh, a movement to improve the urban environment called Cultural Truss Non-profit organization PCT (Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: PCT): A movement to turn the downtown area into a special cultural zone was launched. 2. Gwangju Art Street

Public Engagement Strategy

Many organizations were active in Insa-dong from before the designation of cultural districts to the designation process. According to the <Cultural District Management Plan>, there were 5 community-based organizations and 1 civic group at that time. Among them, Jongno-gu organized the 'Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association' as a representative residents' council, enabling Insa-dong residents to participate, centering on this'Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association'.

Financing Strategy


Existing Community and Residents

According to the <Culture District Management Plan>, there were 5 community-based organizations and 1 civic group at the time, and Jongno-gu received the opinions of citizens through a representative residents' council called “Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association” with citizens.

Phasing Strategy


The Master Plan

Insadong Cultural District designed a master plan with the goal of protecting traditional cultural establishments and creating a cultural street by designating Insa-dong as a zone. In addition, the implementation of programs suitable for Insa-dong, hosting and planning of events, and participation of citizens through the residents' council are also included in the masterplan.

Land Uses and Programs

Gallery, Antiques, Crafts, Pyogusa, Crafts Gallery, Pavilion, Art Museum, Restaurant, Tea House, Cafe

Timeline or Milestones


Current Status

In Maintenance, Ongoing

Lessons Learned

What is the most important take away from this case?

The Insa-dong Cultural District is a project conducted in consultation with the citizens represented by the “Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association” and Jongno-gu.

Why is this case relevant today and for whom?

This is because the Insa-dong Cultural District is still actively spending over 1 billion dollars each year, and maintenance is under an agreement between the “Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association” and Jongno-gu.

Which strategy was proved to be successful?

conducted in consultation with the citizens represented by the “Insa Traditional Culture Preservation Association” and Jongno-gu.

In your opinion, what could have improved this project?

Need Help

Any other comments?


ONLINE Resources and References
OFFLINE Resources and References

A study on the Effectiveness of the Cultural Site Visit, District Policy in the City of Seoul : Comparing the Cultural Districts in Insa-dong and Daehak-ro (2007, 김경애)


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Contributor audex


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