Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Early Observations...

As readers may know, I'm in South Korea for two weeks teaching a Survey of U.S. Intellectual Property Law course in Pohang.  While here, I'm also surveying the land use patterns here in Korea.  I'll try and add some pictures in a few days but, for now, here are some early observations:

1.  The concept of vast single-family detached residential-only subdivisions nearly does not exist in this area.  Instead, much of the residential living is in dense, multi-story attached units.  And, when I say "dense", I really mean it.  Some of the massing of these structures is really immense.  While the architecture is much better, the massing is so dense that it is somewhat reminiscent of the large Russian-style attached residential units. 

2.  Conversely, this means that the Korean development patterns are much more compact.  It's really eye-opening to see how compact development ends up being without the proliferation of single family McMansions (or even mini-McMansions or mini-mini McMansions).  And, to be clear, its not because there is a lack of land.  Indeed, while driving throughout, I've seen vast swaths of open land.  Instead, it appears to be more of a policy choice to build more densely and more compactly than the U.S. model.

3.  The effect of #2 is that there are many mass transit options.  While I have seen many cars (though most are much smaller than the typical American motor vehicle), many individuals walk, ride buses, or ride the expansive national train system.  This Friday, I'm actually booked to ride the Korean version of a bullet train from Daegu to Seoul.  Once there, I catch the Korean subway in the same station and ride several stops to my hotel.  From there, I'll walk or ride the subway to all of my weekend destinations.  To get from here in Pohang to the bullet train in Daegu, I have several options:  a commuter train, the bus system, or a private taxi. 

Needless to say, this reliance on transit requires a change in thinking and planning since you rely on someone else's fixed schedule unlike when one uses their own personal vehicle.  Nevertheless, its been very relaxing in many ways to not have access to a car for two weeks in a foreign country nearly 7,500 miles from where I live.  Imagine that, eh?

Okay, that will do it for now.  I'll share some observations of Seoul later this week.  For now, this is Chad Emerson signing off from the Pohang, South Korea bureau of the Land Use Blog... 


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