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Framework of the Inclusive City Indicators and the Inclusiveness of Seoul

Miree ByunㆍKwonjoong ChohㆍMinjin ParkㆍJinah KimㆍYoonseok ChoiㆍJi-Won Choi

Summary of findings


The Seoul Inclusive City Index is comprised of three areas: Human Inclusiveness, Spatial Inclusiveness, and Governance Inclusiveness. ‘Seoul: An Inclusive City’ should be the city’s vision for the future.


Why has “Inclusive City” emerged?

Seoul has witnessed signs of economic uncertainty and social unrest. The city has lost its vigor as the growth engine of Korea. Youth unemployment and household debt have escalated to detrimental levels. A rapidly‐aging society presents the risk of generational conflict over a variety of issues. The openness of Seoul to foreigners and minorities is far below the level of the city’s global peers, and the city has no clear solutions to its social problems. A question has arisen as to whether its strategy for development into a global city has made our society “better” in a genuine sense. Seoul has entered a new phase, a turning point, which is different from its urban development experiences of the past. In the face of difficult and unpredictable socioeconomic issues, the city needs a new action plan.


The Essence of an Inclusive City: Reducing Inequality & Disparity while Increasing Citizen Participation

Seoul is not alone in these trends. Other global cities have faced the same question of whether the fruits of economic development have contributed to building a better society. Many cities have recognized the increasing wealth inequality and the prevalence of social exclusion, and cities around the world, as well as the international community as a whole, are paying attention to the concept of the Inclusive City as a solution to today’s social problems.

Discussion on the Inclusive City as a way to increase the inclusiveness of a nation or a city must also consider “social exclusion” to better understand the notion of inclusiveness and its meaning. Occurring at both the individual and community level, social exclusion is a normative concept referring to a lack of social participation or benefit and is regarded as a state or process of excluding individuals or groups from participating, in order to accomplish the purposes of, or to realize benefits for the dominant party. It also means exclusion from the fair distribution of economic gains.

Social exclusion is a complicated, multidimensional process. It includes insufficient access to resources, rights, and services in the economic, social, cultural, and political realms, as well as to ordinary relationships and activities available to the majority of people in a society. It results in structuralized poverty, the cause, as well as the result of economic inequality.


The European Union (EU), International Organizations, and Global Cities Joining the Discussion on the Inclusive City

Many international organizations and global cities are engaged in active discussions of the Inclusive City. To be sure, the concept of the Inclusive City and its interpretation can vary in debates about how to boost inclusive growth and improve the inclusiveness of a city. While the concept of the Inclusive City first appeared in the late 1990s, it has emerged as a policy agenda for major international organizations since 2006.

These major international organizations have approached the concept in a variety of ways. The World Bank insists on a transition to inclusive growth from shared growth, a concept that places emphasis on the redistribution of income. It argues that urban inclusiveness should be promoted in the spatial, social and economic dimensions. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), launched the Inclusive Growth Initiative in 2012, pointing out that global economic development, ironically, has exacerbated inequality. It emphasizes the importance of establishing social institutions for inclusive growth and fair distribution of economic growth, because rising inequality incurs social costs. The United Nations Habitat (UN‐Habitat) recommended the Inclusive City as the main theme of the 1999 Global Campaign on Urban Governance. In 2016, the idea of the Inclusive City was adopted as the main agenda for the Habitat III conference. The European Union (EU) calls for inclusiveness to reduce social exclusion, focusing on poverty and the distribution of resources. As a way to eradicate urban poverty, the EU has also proposed policies to develop standards for measurement of poverty and identification of groups vulnerable to social exclusion.

Major global cities have adopted the paradigm of the Inclusive City as a vision for the future. The City of New York initiated the new urban development plan, OneNYC, placing emphasis on growth, sustainability, resilience, and equity. OneNYC is a comprehensive plan to address social exclusion resulting from rising inequality. It underscores that New York City is a thriving, sustainable, resilient, and equitable city. The City of Boston suggested four major goals and strategies to build an inclusive city: (i) Improve the quality of life by strengthening community ownership; (ii) Drive inclusive economic growth; (iii) Promote a healthy environment to cope with climate change; and (iv) Invest in infrastructure, open space and culture.


The Seoul Inclusive City Index Comprises Three Areas: Human Inclusiveness, Spatial Inclusiveness, and Governance Inclusiveness, Six Dimensions, and 33 Indicators

The Seoul Inclusive City Index Framework was developed by The Seoul Institute to reflect the global discussion on the Inclusive City in the administration of Seoul. Our research team first prepared a draft framework of the indices, which was reviewed by experts through brainstorming sessions, and in‐depth interviews to confirm its feasibility and propriety. The experts focused on whether the index embraced the context of the OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative, and whether its framework was comparable to other megacities. The potential usefulness of the data was also considered. Then, a survey of Seoul citizens was conducted to garner opinions on the feasibility and significance of the framework, and on individual indicators. After this thorough review, the Seoul Inclusive City Index Framework was finally confirmed.

The index is comprised of 3 areas, and 6 dimensions with 33 indicators. The three areas are Human Inclusiveness, Spatial Inclusiveness, and Governance Inclusiveness. Each area is composed of two dimensions: Economic Competence and Social Well‐Being for Human Inclusiveness; Access to Public Services and Access to Neighborhood Infrastructure for Spatial Inclusiveness; and Citizen Participation and Transparency/Responsibility for Governance Inclusiveness. The dimensions of Economic Competence and Social Well‐Being deal with the human capacity and the distribution of human resources. Access to Public Services and Access to Neighborhood Infrastructure, deal with the identification of the levels of inclusiveness in terms of regional equity and universal access. Citizen Participation and Transparency/Responsibility assess inclusiveness in terms of institutions and processes.


How Inclusive is Seoul, Compared to the OECD Average?

The level of Seoul’s inclusiveness was assessed based on the Seoul Inclusive City Index. If it was possible to compare the data, Seoul was compared to the OECD average by each indicator. As expected, the inclusiveness of Seoul varied by category.

Because there were comparable indicators in only some dimensions, there were limitations to fully assessing inclusiveness. Nevertheless, Seoul ranked higher than the OECD average only in the Economic Competence dimension within the Human Inclusiveness area. In all other dimensions, it ranked relatively low.

Taking a closer look, at Human Inclusiveness, Seoul showed higher inclusiveness in Economic Competence, but lower in Social Well‐Being. Spatial Inclusiveness was difficult to assess as there were only three indicators comparable to the OECD data, which were in the dimensions of Access to Public Services, and Access to Neighborhood Infrastructure. In the Citizen Participation dimension within the Governance Inclusiveness area, Seoul scored rather poorly.


Seoul Inclusiveness Rated as Low by Citizens

Do the citizens of Seoul think their city is on the right path toward an inclusive city? We conducted a survey of Seoul citizens on this subject, and most rated it relatively poorly. About half (49%) responded that economic, and social inequality, had increased in Seoul when compared to five years ago. This figure was more than three times the number of respondents who stated the opposite (16.2%).

The survey also asked how hard the city strived to reduce social discrimination and exclusion. About half of the citizens (49.8%), responded, “the city has made some effort,” while the other half (50.2%), responded, “the city has not made sufficient effort.” It can be concluded that most citizens think the city of Seoul has not worked hard enough to become more inclusive.

In order for Seoul to become more inclusive, people felt that what was most needed was, “measures to increase the transparency and responsibility of public policy (24.5%)”. This was followed by other inclusive policy suggestions including: policy to create more public service jobs (18.0%); assistance to low income groups and minorities (16.7%); better public services through improving neighborhood infrastructure (16.3%); policy to reduce regional disparity in public facilities (15.9%); and measures to encourage the participation of citizens from all walks of life in public policy (8.7%).


If the Seoul Metropolitan Government Wishes Society to be Inclusive, It Needs to Adopt “An Inclusive City” as the city’s Vision for the Future

Over the past half century, Seoul has grown into a global city through rapid economic development, dubbed “the miracle on the Han River”. As the national growth engine, Seoul has been at the heart of this economic development. The Gross National Income, per capita, has reached almost 30,000. USD annually. Economic growth manifested itself in a boom of apartment construction and car ownership. However, Seoul is now confronted with problems once‐hidden by the rapid growth, such as inequality between classes and regions, social polarization, and lack of social transparency and trust. The city needs to tackle a range of social problems, such as having the world’s highest suicide rate, the world’s lowest birthrate, and a rapidly growing aging population. Inequality is at the heart of all of these problems. With thwarted expectations of the fair distribution of economic gains, a majority of citizens have felt a sense of deprivation, envisioning a grim future for themselves as that characterized in, “Hell Joseon”. It is high time for Seoul to shift the urban development paradigm towards inclusive growth and making itself an inclusive city.

To that end, the city needs to improve this area of Human Inclusiveness, through implementing and expanding policies to mitigate inequality, and disparity among the population. Spatial Inclusiveness also needs to increase, by reducing inequality in housing, and reducing unsafe housing and neighborhoods. Through alleviating the time inequality among its citizens, the city must create an institution where meaningful participation and policy transparency are ensured. It is imperative for the Seoul Metropolitan Government to adopt this idea of an Inclusive City, as future vision for Seoul, if it wishes to build a better society that ensures the well‐being of its citizens.




01. Why the Inclusive City?

1. The Emerging Paradigm of the Inclusive City

2. Research Content & Methodology


02. Theoretical Review

1. Inclusiveness & Social Exclusion

2. Inequality & Poverty

3. Participation & Social Exclusion


03. Theories of the Inclusive City

1. Discussions on the Inclusive City: International Organizations & the EU

2. Discussions on the Inclusive City: Global Cities

3. A Resilient & Inclusive City

4. Conclusions


04. Developing the Inclusive City Index for Seoul

1. Developing the Index Framework

2. A Citizen Survey on the Index Framework

3. Establishing the Inclusive City Index for Seoul


05. Seoul’s Level of Inclusiveness

1. Human Inclusiveness

2. Spatial Inclusiveness

3. Governance Inclusiveness

4. Conclusions


06. Policy Proposals for the Inclusive City

1. A Monitoring Policy based on the Seoul Inclusive City Index

2. Mitigating Inequality & Disparity in Population Competence

3. Reducing Inequality in Housing & Reducing Spaces of Danger

4. Reducing Inequality in Participation by Alleviating Time Inequality



Summary of findings