Globalization, urban changes and Seoul's dreams: A global perspective on contemporary Seoul

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John Rennie Short


Korea, Globalization, Seoul, Urban changes

Subject Categories



This dissertation examines the relationship between globalization and urban changes in Seoul over the past decade. The case study of Seoul and its relations to globalization processes grew out of a simple question: "Contemporary Seoul looks and feels different. What are the source of changes to this city?" I particularly focus attention on the global aspect of urban changes in Seoul. Globalization has given rise to a global perspective on the city in urban studies, as flows of people, goods, capital and information have increasingly strengthened ties between cities around the world.

Over the past decade, the Seoul economy has increasingly opened up to international trade, foreign investors, migrants and telecommunications networks. Seoulers have become familiar with the presence of the foreign in the city, which used to be highly homogenous. And, the Korean government has actively promoted the "international competitiveness" discourse. These internationalization processes of Seoul have been driven both by global forces, such as multinational firms, financial institutions, American cultural products and international organizations, and by local initiatives, such as Seoul-based multinationals and banks, Seoulers' rising global consciousness and the Korean government's efforts to achieve a "world city status." Urban changes in Seoul over the past decade, therefore, has been the outcome of Seoul's own interplay of the global and the local.

This dissertation argues that a global perspective provides a better understanding of urban dynamics in contemporary Seoul, as Seoul has expanded and intensified its connection with global forces. The measurement of these globalization-related changes in economic, cultural and political terms clearly shows that Seoul has increasingly been affected by global trends over the last decade. The recent financial crisis and the IMF rescue package are expected to accelerate dramatically the economic opening up, cultural diversification and political internationalization of Seoul.


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