Green Parking Initiative in Seoul

Korea Parking Issues

A big issue in Korean cities is parking. Cars park everywhere. They block sidewalks, pedestrian crossings or a road lane. It is well documented in the Korean Parking Tumblr and it even led to a disruptive idea. Just recently I discovered a policy named “Green Parking” (그린파킹). As this article is going to show, the policy has a good intention but a bad impact on the city.

An article about the Green Parking policy has the following picture:

Seoul Green Parking

(Source: Seoul Media Hub)

Just by reading the keyword green parking I assumed that the picture above shows the transformation of a parking space to an urban farming space. Oh but wait… Isn’t normally the before-picture on the left and the after-picture on the right? Then I inspected the second before-after comparison:

Seoul Green Parking

(Source: Seoul Media Hub)

Hm, the parking lot looks really new. After reading the article, I realized that I was wrong: The Seoul Green Parking policy is about transforming space INTO parking lots. On both pictures the left side shows the situation before and the right side shows the situation after implementing the Green Parking policy.


Green Parking Policy

Seoul’s Green Parking policy provides financial incentives to house or land owners who transform their property or parts of the property to parking. The policy was introduced in 2004 and until 2014 a total of 48,867 parking places were made. 24,727 properties took opportunity of the policy. Seoul provides under this policy 8.5 million KRW for a single parking spot, 9.5 million KRW for two parking spots and a maximum of 27.5 million KRW for several parking spots. Here is another example of how the initiative can be used for residential buildings:

Seoul Green Parking

(Source: Seoul Media Hub)

It can be described as successful in creating off-street parking and removing cars from the road. Seoul saves a lot of money through this initiative. The construction of a public off-street parking space costs the city around 50 million KRW per lot but the Green Parking policy costs Seoul only 8.5 million KRW per lot. Advantage for house owners is that they create their own private parking lot. They don’t have to look for a parking spot after a long day at work.

In my opinion, the policy shows the high costs of parking and owning a car. Not only the financial costs, it is also about the environmental and social costs. From the perspective of a transport planner, the land may be unused but it is a green space in some cases. Replacing a possibly green house yard with a parking lot is a decrease in quality of life.

Here are more examples of this measure:

A basic element of modern transport planning is to eliminate on-street parking because cars that occupy road space cause congestion. It is also very inconvenient and dangerous to walk on such streets with little space left for people who walk. It would be just better to reduce the supply of parking while providing public transport because avoiding demand for private cars is the best solution.

So this policy is outdated and recent planning thinks different about parking, right?


Still No Parking? Let’s Create Some!

Now, as most of you are familiar with transportation in Seoul, you would say that there are many buildings without parking lots and whole neighborhoods without any supply of parking.

Such a neighborhood is Dasan-dong in Seoul’s Jung-gu. The neighborhood lies on the outside of the Seoul city wall. Small alleys lead through the neighborhood without any space to park a car and some alleys aren’t wide enough for cars. Officials from Jung-gu district office announced that they are going to build parking for residents but the people in the area argue that they don’t need parking. The real intention behind the parking space is to provide parking for tourists. The area was recently designated as a new hip place, an artist quarter that is going to be developed receive cultural facilities and other amenities. Therefore, the district wants to build a 4,275 square-meter large public parking lot. The plan would displace 52 households, in total around 200 people. The majority of them lived their whole life in that neighborhood. If Jung-gu really proceeds with the plan, then they have to move away in order to make space for a parking lot. It isn’t connected to the Green Parking policy but the example stresses again the high costs of parking and private motorization.


Is it a sustainable approach?

The Seoul Green Parking policy isn’t so green after all and current parking policy development follows the wrong direction. Seoul tries to create more parking and it will lead to more traffic. In a city with such a high population density there is little space for cars. Seoul is well-known for a strong transport demand management. Parking is very limited in the city. The infrastructure for private motorization is as well. But both is made on purpose with the goal to keep the level of cars relatively low. The development in Dasan-dong and the Green Parking policy do not contribute to the sustainability of Seoul’s transport system.


Resources and Information: Green Parking | Seoul Traffic | Hankyoreh

About This Author

<p>Co-Author of Kojects. Interested in Sustainable Transportation, Urbanism and Korea.</p>


You can post comments in this post.

  • I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion Nikola. Nice read.

    This is definitely not a sustainable approach by Seoul City at all. While it is cheaper for their budget to do this, they are inherently providing a vehicle for more traffic and cars, which is the opposite of what “Green Urban Planning” is. The solution is not adding more parking, it is right pricing parking.

    I feel like nobody that deals with parking policy in Seoul has ever read Donald Shoup’s fantastic read about The High Cost of Free Parking…the book’s key points of this are as follows:

    1. Right-price public parking

    – Make sure you price parking meters so that occupancy rates in an area are around 85%. Occupancy rates should never reach 100% (this means that parking is too cheap) or too low ( this means that parking is too expensive so people choose not to park).

    2. Use public parking fees to fund BIDs/neighborhood improvement projects – make money transparent and show citizens how its being used to improve their neighborhood

    – This easily justifies increasing parking prices to “Right-price” the cost of parking. Local neighborhood residents wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for parking at their favorite restaurants/stores if they know the money is going to used to beautify or improve their own local neighborhood.

    Hopefully Seoul City really considers changing their parking policy that reflects one that is truly “green” and “sustainable”.

    Ray Chetti 2 years ago Reply

  • i am a Seoulite who lived here for almost entire my life, cannot agree with this article.

    Yes, enviromental friendly is necessary and i support it but without suggesting any other solution and just criticizing current parking lot changing policy doesn’t make sense.

    we the people only think in one side rather two side.
    For example replacing Combustion vehicles into Electric cars may look like a solution to the current air- polution problem.
    But No. all those Electric vehicles’ electricity also comsumes fossile fuel burned power plants, so the overall polution quantity stays the same.
    Just because you do not see the emission from the vehicle doesn’t mean we solve the problem.
    chimney of power plants still makes them because of overproducing electricity for the e-vehicles.

    just as this example, it is obvious Korea has no parking lot and Seoul is very population densed city than any other cities. Despite its popularity, many owns the big size vehicles unlike Japan we the Korean love big and luxurious vehicles. you can find this from its sales stats.

    Then you have to suggest real solution how to settle down current lot-less seoul and the environment at the same time.

    i assume you do not own any vehicle here in Korea nor ever parked in Seoul often.

    if you just try for a day or week will see how tragic it is to live here in Seoul with vehicle.

    go try car share and penetrate Gangnam and Jung gu and park your car.

    Mr. Korean Kim 2 years ago Reply

  • It’s sad to see Seoul promoting so backwards policies and to see green space disappear in favor of asphalt under the label of “geen”. The diminished unsealed surface is already a huge problem for the rainwater absorption and groundwater regeneration in cities, this will make it worse. More parking space will create more cars. While creating more parking might short term relax the parking situation it will ultimately make the problem worse. The ugly one-room style buildings in Korea offer street level parking under them and the rear spots which are only accessible if you call all the car owners parked in front of your car, are rarely used. Instead just another row of cars on the street is parked. The problem just spills out to the street. On sidewalks many businesses have half sized parking spaces on their own property, expecting the city to tolerate that half the car is parked on the sidewalk. And the city is indeed tolerating that. The only solution to the parking problem is to remove free public parking completely and enforce parking rules vigorously. If parking on public land is expensive it will become a viable business to operate private lots on vacant land. No need for incentive programs like the one mentioned in the article. Looking at Tokyo gives a good example how to solve the issue and create a more livable city. Only allow car registrations for car owners who can prove ownership over a parking space. Here is a nice whitepaper from the Asian Development Bank on parking in Asian Cities.

    Max (@bauchhaus) 2 years ago Reply

  • The ironically named policy is definitely sad to see. Despite being a ubiquitous daily sight, parking oddities in and around Seoul are still a fascination to me.

    There is a two-way street in Anyang down which a maeul bus operates in both directions. However, the whole street is always filled with illegally parked cars, causing the bus drivers to have to radio to one another and wait for one to pass through the opposite direction before proceeding. What a hassle at the hand of a lack of enforcement.

    Philip Partington 2 years ago Reply

  • Thank you for a well written article. This is not a “green initiative” at all. It is Orwellian Big Brother’s Double Speak. Going from green to gray is not the answer. There needs to be much more green “life” space in this city. Public transportation in Seoul is quick, comes often and affordable. We new minds working on the Urban Planning side of this city. Fire the team of idiots that came up with the idea of more parking. It’s simply a bad solution.

    I look forward to the day when there will be less smog, less cars, and more walking/cycling & green space in this wonderful city. One can always hope!

    Yvon Malenfant 2 years ago Reply

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