A programme of industrialisation and export oriented development transformed it in less than four decades into a global economic hub of 10 million people at the cutting edge of technological innovation. So remarkable has Seoul’s transformation been that it earned the title ‘Miracle on the Han River’ and became a model for fast-growing cities in China, India and Brazil.
Much of Seoul’s success is down to huge home-grown ‘chaebol’ – family controlled business conglomerates. Two of the largest, Samsung and LG, are global players in the tech sector. National, domestic companies dominate the home market, for example Google plays second fiddle to local search giant Naver (South Korea is one of the few countries in the world where Google is not the dominant search engine). Seoul residents are early adopters of new technology with a particular emphasis on mobile. This huge home consumer base has given large firms a solid platform to expand abroad.
Technology is embedded in Seoul’s infrastructure. The Seoul Metropolitan Subway has had 4G mobile reception on trains and platforms since 2010.
It is also possible to buy tickets and enter stations using a smartphone, while stations feature the world’s largest digital signage service. Broadband speeds in Seoul have long been among the fastest globally – although the competition is catching up (Singapore and Hong Kong are already quicker).