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Urban safety

  • Making Seoul a Walkable City Full of Happy Citizens

  • Urban safety SMG 2189

    [Creating pleasant, walkable streets based on the 10 Commandments for Paving Blocks]

    • Seoul announces the “10 Commandments for Paving Blocks” in an effort to put an end to 60 years of poor sidewalk construction practices
    • 1st Commandment: Launch a real-name system for sidewalk construction
      2nd Commandment: Implement a “one-strike-out system”
      3rd Commandment: Ensure the safety of pedestrians
      4th Commandment: Sidewalk Construction Closing 11
      5th Commandment: Make those who cause damage to sidewalks responsible for repairs and restoration
      6th Commandment: Operate the Street Monitoring Group
      7th Commandment: Establish guidelines by which pedestrians may report sidewalk-related inconveniences
      8th Commandment: Return sidewalks to pedestrians
      9th Commandment: Operate the Paving Block Bank
      10th Commandment: Work together

    • – Citizens’ satisfaction with sidewalks jumps from 29 percent in 2013 to 78 percent in 2014.
    • – Seoul unveils Phase 2 of the “Creating Pleasant, Walkable Streets” project.
      * Seoul says it will reduce curb height at crosswalks from 20 centimeters to one centimeter and overhaul faulty paving blocks.
      * Seoul makes it mandatory for technicians taking courses to participate in sidewalk construction and establishes “Sidewalk Construction Artisan Certification.”

    • – Seoul to hold biggest international paving block event in 2018.

    The total length of all sidewalks in Seoul is 2,788 kilometers, which is six times the length of Gyeongbu Expressway, and the total area of these sidewalks is 1.2 times that of Yeouido. Seoul citizens spend an average of 70.3 minutes a day on the city’s sidewalks.

    Following the Korean War, Seoul launched a massive sidewalk construction effort; however, the city took an inconsistent approach to construction and failed to institute proper guidelines. Accordingly, in 2012, Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced and began enforcing the “10 Commandments for Paving Blocks” in an effort to increase the convenience and satisfaction of pedestrians.

    Seoul announces “10 Commandments for Paving Blocks,” highlighting that sidewalks belong to pedestrians.

    Seoul’s “10 Commandments for Paving Blocks” Sidewalk construction ignored the safety of citizens


    Although Seoul’s sidewalks are filled with people every day, it is common to see large sections of sidewalks dug up at the end of every year, paving blocks being replaced unnecessarily, damaged sidewalks neglected all year round, and newly constructed sidewalks quickly falling into disrepair. This sparked a flood of criticism, accusing the authorities of turning a blind eye to citizen safety and focusing only on construction. For about 60 years, the practice of building sidewalks with no consideration for the opinions of citizens was maintained.

    In an effort to resolve this situation and return the city’s sidewalks to pedestrians, Seoul established and announced the “10 Commandments for Paving Blocks” in April 2012, expressing its regret concerning past practices and resolutions for the future.

    One of the most noteworthy of these commandments is the first: launch a real-name system for sidewalk construction with the aim of preventing shoddy construction. By having engineers’ names officially associated with each sidewalk construction project they undertake, the city aims to instill in them a greater sense of pride and responsibility for their work and to the people and raise the importance of sidewalk construction to a level on par with that of the construction of buildings or expressways.

    The city hopes that engineers and technicians will feel proud to have built sections of sidewalks—with their own hands—where countless citizens spend so much of their time moving around the city. The real-name system for sidewalk construction applies to all projects for the construction of sidewalk sections exceeding 100 meters in length, and requires that the name, period, and section of the sidewalk construction project, as well as information on the builder, supervisor, and superintendent, be indicated on the sidewalk itself within 10 meters of the starting and ending points of each section built.

    In addition, as the streets essentially belong to citizens themselves, the 10 million citizens of Seoul have now been given the power to monitor the condition of the city’s streets, in accordance with the 6th Commandment: operate the Street Monitoring Group. Through this group, citizens who walk the streets of Seoul every day will monitor and evaluate the city’s sidewalks. In addition, a connection has been established between citizens and the city government to ensure that, upon the submission of a report on a sidewalk-related inconvenience by a citizen via smartphone, a responsible government body will respond promptly. The monitoring group was established to reflect the views of citizens, who have direct experience using sidewalks, rather than those of civil servants or the city government. The number of street monitors is now on the rise, increasing from 424 in 2012 to 646 in 2013, further to 654 in 2014 and 707 in 2015.

    8th Commandment: Return sidewalks to pedestrians Motorcycles driving on sidewalks


    In Chinese, “sidewalk” is written as “步道,” which literally means “walking road.” However, sidewalks in Seoul were chaotic, with objects and materials scattered randomly, motorcycles driving around, and illegally parked or stopped vehicles, forcing pedestrians to walk with extreme caution.

    It is illegal to park or stop a vehicle or leaving objects piled on sidewalks, but as these acts were mostly carried out by business owners located near sidewalks for the sake of convenience, any strict crackdown on such activities would inevitably create conflict with citizens. Nonetheless, as such acts inconvenienced citizens and caused damage to sidewalks, they could not be overlooked for long.

    To address this situation, SMG decided to actively implement the 8th Commandment: return sidewalks to pedestrians. In particular, it decided to enforce a strict crackdown on driving motorcycles on sidewalks, as this act poses a direct threat to citizen safety. In order to accomplish the goal of returning sidewalks to pedestrians, the city government is continuously strengthening relevant laws, carrying out crackdowns, using billboard advertising, and conducting civil campaigns.

    People from all walks of life put their heads together to make the streets of Seoul more pleasant.

    10th Commandment: Working together Policy discussions on the 10 Commandments for Paving Blocks


    With the goal of fulfilling the 10 Commandments for Paving Blocks, SMG held working-level meetings that were attended by district (gu) representatives, individuals from relevant organizations, builders, and citizens. The key issues discussed included the analysis of the outcomes of promoting the 10 Commandments for Paving Blocks and improvements that need to be made, monitoring of the progress being made on overhauling the sidewalk construction/restoration system, and improvement of supervision over sidewalk construction projects.

    As these meetings show, people from all walks of life are putting their heads together and discussing policy changes and pending issues and sharing information with the common goal of making the streets of Seoul more pleasant. By building on this cooperative atmosphere over the past three years, the city government has been able to achieve significant development and changes, including increasing the safety and quality control of sidewalk construction projects. As a result, citizens’ satisfaction with sidewalks jumped from 29 percent in 2012 to 78 percent in 2014.

    Seoul says it will reduce curb height at crosswalks from 20 centimeters to one centimeter.

    Despite these achievements, however, some were still frustrated with the high curbs at crosswalks, especially people with disabilities who need wheelchairs or strollers to get around. To address this need, Seoul unveiled Phase 2 of the “Create Pleasant, Walkable Streets” project, building on the three years of achievements of the 10 Commandments for Paving Blocks.

    This project included reducing the height of curbs at crosswalks from 20 centimeters to one centimeter and replacing PVC paving blocks, which become slippery when it rains, with concrete paving blocks.

    Partial curb height reduction at crosswalk (current) → Complete curb height reduction at crosswalks (new)


    In addition, the city government established a plan to eliminate the widespread belief that manholes are dangerous, dirty, and lack design. Through the plan, the city decorated the covers of a total of 550,000 manholes with designs expressing aspects of each area’s history and culture, thereby transforming manholes into meaningful facilities that encourage people to remember the city’s past and make the city unique. Furthermore, the city government has designated the entire area of Insa-dong, in Jongno-gu, which is heavily frequented by foreign tourists, as a pilot area for the manhole project.

    Seoul hosts “Seoul Sidewalk Block Expo.”

    Seoul’s efforts to overhaul its sidewalks culminated in the 2015 Seoul Sidewalk Block Expo, which was held in Seoul Plaza and Seoul City Hall last year. First held in 2013, when it was the first event of its kind in the world, the Seoul Sidewalk Block Expo offers a variety of programs, including a sidewalk construction contest, a newly developed sidewalk exhibition, an international forum, and events for the disabled to try out new paving blocks. Since it was first held, the event has been attracting an increasing number of participants.

    In an effort to promote professionalism and the artisan spirit in sidewalk construction, the city government has made it mandatory for technicians who have taken courses on specialized paving skills to participate in sidewalk construction. In addition, the Korea Specialty Contractor Financial Cooperative (KSCFC) in Eumseong, Chungcheongbuk-do, now offers courses on specialized paving skills. Furthermore, with the planned introduction of certifications, including the Sidewalk Construction Artisan Certification of Seoul City and national Sidewalk Construction Technician Certification, it is expected that sidewalks will soon be infused with the same professionalism seen in architecture and building construction.

    Seoul to hold biggest international sidewalk event in 2018

    Special Tourism Zones of Light Pollution-Free Seoul

    Scene of the ICCBP held in Germany Seoul pavilion at the ICCBP


    SMG’s 10 Commandments for Paving Blocks is drawing considerable attention from developed nations in Europe. The International Conference on Concrete Block Pavement (ICCBP), the only international event related to concrete block paving, is due to be held in Seoul in 2018. First held in New Castle, the UK, in 1980, the ICCBP is held every three years. The event introduces various sidewalk materials, products, and techniques related to design, construction, safety, and the environment. It also holds expert discussions on the latest issues and exhibits new equipment and products related to sidewalk construction.

    Based on the 10 Commandments for Paving Blocks, SMG has pledged to eliminate everything that is inconvenient, illegal, dangerous, unsightly, and unpleasant about the city’s sidewalks, creating safe, pleasant spaces that promote happiness among all citizens. Consequently, this is expected to not only ensure the safety and convenience of Seoul citizens, but also offer greater convenience to the many foreign tourists that visit Korea, thus having a positive impact on the tourism industry as well.

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