The Eco Smart City: Can We Catch Two Rabbits at Once?

by Sang Keon Lee
September 27, 2022

This essay examines the emerging concept of the eco smart city in South Korea, compares it with existing smart cities, and considers policy implications for both U.S. and South Korean cities.



The eco smart city project is an attempt to catch two rabbits—carbon neutrality and the fourth industrial revolution—at once in the urban space. The project aims to combine the two policies that have been promoted separately in South Korea: the eco city policy in response to the new climate regime and the smart city policy for securing competitiveness in the era of the fourth industrial revolution. It attempts to generate synergy by transforming the conflicting paradigms into a complementary relationship between the two approaches. The ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create green jobs by applying the technological innovation of smart cities to the climate crisis response.

  • The eco smart city project is expected to contribute to the realization of the 2050 carbon-neutral society declared by the South Korean government. To this end, cross-ministerial governance is important for the integrated promotion of the related projects of each ministry and the efficient use of the budget.
  • To achieve project sustainability, diverse support and leadership from the government are essential, including nurturing start-ups from the initial stages, developing business models, and encouraging voluntary citizen participation.
  • Consensus building and joint pilot project initiatives for the realization of eco smart cities, especially in developing countries, will be promising opportunities for cooperation modalities between the U.S. and South Korea.

Sang Keon Lee is the Director of the Global Development Partnership Center at the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements.