The Silicon Valley of Asia is in Korea. And more surprisingly, it isn’t in well-known areas like Gangnam or Songdo. It’s in Seongnam and the area is called Pangyo Techno Valley. With this post I want to introduce the urban project and take you on a tour through the area.
The project was initiated in 2004 and the final plan was approved in 2006. Constructions were done between 2006 and 2012. There are two (old) promotional videos about Pangyo Techno Valley (watch the first and the second). More information and a general context gives a lecture of Seongnam’s Mayor at Stanford from earlier this year. From the lecture I collected the following information:
There are 870 companies and a total of 60,000 employees in that area. The maximum capacity is 80,000 people. 7 of the 10 biggest gaming companies in Korea are located in Pangyo. Many companies moved from Gangnam District in Seoul to Pangyo. Among the reasons are cheaper land prices and the local government’s support system. Land and property in Pangyo is half as expensive as Gangnam. Seongnam supports companies and start-ups with proactive measures to develop a successful business.
For example, I know someone who works in a gaming company in Pangyo. His company was previously somewhere between Samseong Station and Seolleung Station in Gangnam. He enjoys Pangyo even though he can’t afford housing there. He lives in Bundang which is relatively close.
Location of Pangyo Techno Valley
Pangyo is a part of the city Seongnam southeast of Seoul. Here is the exact location of Pangyo Techno Valley area:
The companies are in the northern part. The eastern, southern and western parts are mainly residential apartments mixed with some detached housing. I pass through the area many times on my way from Suwon to Seoul but I never had time for a visit to Korea’s Silicon Valley.
I just walked around the business area in the north of Pangyo Techno Valley station for two hours.
Tour Through Pangyo
On a sunny day in June I had the chance to visit Pangyo. I begun my journey at the Pangyo Station on the Shinbundang Line. It was one of the first stations when the Shinbundang Line opened in October 2011. It takes 14 minutes from there to Gangnam Station.
Pangyo Techno Valley is well connected to Seoul. Besides the express commuter rail Shinbundang Line there are also buses available. A new expressway is going to connect Pangyo with Yangchae, a southern area of Seoul’s Gangnam.
The area above the subway station isn’t yet developed. The Hyundai Department Store (in the background of the picture above) is going to open soon and at the end of the year two multipurpose buildings (mix of residential and commercial building) will open west of the station. In 2016 the station is also going to have a rail connection to Yeoju, read more here: opening of the Seongnam-Yeoju Line in 2016.
There are many officetels with convenient stores, restaurants and shops for daily needs in the lower floors north of the station.
Right next to the block with officetels is Avenue France, a Korean retail center with restaurants and stores incorporated in an apartment complex. The retail mall resembles a French shopping street and as far as I know, this is the first Avenue France branch. The second Avenue France was opened a couple of weeks ago in Gwangyo (northern Suwon).
Then I walked towards the main business area of Pangyo. While crossing the Unjungcheon (운중천), I was positively surprised by the architecture of the buildings. The consistency in the design is a great element. Buildings have a similar height and a common basic structure, yet each building has a unique design. I believe that the master plan for the project had a significant positive impact on the architecture.
Pangyo is probably the only city in Korea where bus stops are named after IT companies: SK-Planet/Pangyo Digital Contents-Park, Nexon, JC-Entertainment, NCsoft and AhnLab.
I was there on a weekend when there haven’t been many people in the business park.
This is the H-Square, the central plaza of Pangyo. At the entry to the square there are restaurants, stores and also a stage. The main square is connected to the other blocks through pedestrian overpasses. At the H-Square workers can spent their time after work, socialize and meet people from other companies. That is an essential part of cluster development.
The stage at the H-Square is used for performances. Last year, there was a K-Pop concert where a tragic accident happened.
In October 2014, 16 people died and 11 got injured due to the collapse of this ventilation grate. The accident scene is still closed and signs say that it is under investigation.
Then I climbed the pedestrian bridge at the western end of the H-Square:
I was surprised that the traffic amount was very low on this route which is actually the main north-south road passing through Pangyo. Later I found out that there is a 1.5km long tunnel leading the transit traffic under the city.
Then I was too tired to go on. I just took a peek from the distance at the business area on the western side of the Geumtocheon (금토천).
And I could see the R&D for bio-technology from the bridge as well.
Asia’s Silicon Valley
My experience was very positive. Seongnam has done a great job on developing a new area and getting more jobs to their city. Pangyo is more than a replica of Silicon Valley, it’s a the Korean version of Silicon Valley: The city combines the high density of Korean cities, modern architecture and a IT-focused economic development.
Pagno Techno Valley is mostly developed. I didn’t see any constructions except for the area around the subway station and one block at the northern end of Pangyo. The project proofed to be very successful and currently Seongnam considers to build a second Techno Valley nearby.