I have seen the future. Last week I had the privilege of visiting New Songdo City in Incheon Free Economic Zone, South Korea. I must admit, Korea was not a place that was ever on my travel list. The opportunity came up to see a new city being built from the ground up out of reclaimed coastal lowlands – and I just had to go check it out. Not just a new city, but a ‘smart, connected city’ – where my client is networking together life in a master planned, utopian environment. The vision [and ultimate manifestation – they are still in early days] is connecting everything that runs your life – devices inside your home [also controllable from outside your home], multi-dwelling and mixed use buildings, your health care, your utilities, traffic, power management, and even entertainment venues. Songdo is being graced with thoughtful architecture, lots of green space, the tallest business tower in Korea [one of the tallest in Northeast Asia], a cutting edge K-12 school designed for state of the art student interaction and collaboration, a major convention center, as well as an [eventual] active restaurant and entertainment scene. It’s all built to promote environmental sustainability and to become the pre-eminent trade center for North Asian [ including Russian] markets.
I did a lot of walking around staring – just fascinated by what I was experiencing. But perhaps what impressed me most was the Korean people. They are very hard working, extremely polite and gracious, dedicated to quality, and have a ‘just get it done’ attitude. And they do it cheerfully. It’s this kind of spirit and will to advance from arduous circumstances of the last 50 years that should give us in the Western World pause. My emotions are mixed about the US economy. So many of us are struggling and I want that FUD to end.
But the world has changed irreversibly. My generous side believes there is more than enough of everything to go around for everyone, and I am so delighted for the beautiful Korean people to be raising their standard of living – way beyond Songdo, all over the country. I’m happy for those in India, and Vietnam, and Thailand, and the many places that have long struggled economically and are now developing into better quality of life for their citizens. My practical side thinks a visit to Songdo could be a real eye opener for many of us in the West to realize that life as we knew it is gone and we’re going to have to share the wealth and opportunity as never before. Remaining competitive is going to take some relearning, retooling and a new sense of world citizenship and community. Songdo is just one place but I understand a bigger game board after 3 days there than I ever could have come to understand reading about it online. Get to work folks.