The Change of Daily Life, Social Problem Solving Design in Seoul

The 2019 Internatonal Forum on Design to Solve Social Problems has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: Sookhee Park (Director Design Policy Division of Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Paradigm change in public design and the emergence of social problem-solving design
Seoul is the political, economic, social and cultural center of Korea. Korea industrialized in a short period of time due to a period of rapid economic growth that is sometimes called the ‘miracle on the Han River’. Although the brand value of Seoul might have risen, has the quality of life of citizens improved along with it?

The darkness behind the glamor

Behind the splendid scenery of Seoul, there are dark alleys and areas that citizens fear throughout the city. Behind the colorful cultural events held in downtown plazas, there is the daily life of a lonely old man who struggles to walk down the street. There are city attractions that awaken the five senses, but there are schools that use the same space as they did 100 years ago, and there are teenagers who spend most of their day in a uniform space that has not changed at all. In order to take into account the various social problems that occur in such civic life, public design aims towards a human-centered city where citizens can enjoy daily pleasure, not the past development-oriented and efficiency-centered 'visible design' concept, and 'invisible' service. It is thought that a soft change in which content and context are systematized is necessary, and this can be said to be a trend of our times.

The transition to a soft city

Social Problem Solving Design Process for Seoul

In addition to crime, aging, and youth problems, Korean society has social problems such as rising levels of dementia and stress. Of course, design cannot solve all of these problems. However, there will be no more effective means than design in establishing a strategy close to problem solving through a convergence approach. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is gradually upgrading the process from defining the problem to solving the problem. In the process, the most important characteristic is that the service is elaborated by repeating the diffusion and convergence of triple - not double - diamonds, and more.

Process of design policy

In the first stage, a pilot project of the type of social problem that can be solved by design is planned. After that, governance is formed with experts who are suited to the topic, and results are obtained through continuous discussions. However, this pilot solution cannot be rolled out immediately. This is because it was obtained by reflecting the spatiality and situational characteristics of a specific object only. In order to be more generally applicable, slightly different factors must be substituted. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate the effectiveness and diversify by type immediately after the project.

Crime Prevention Design: Fear of Crime
The crime prevention design was designed to prevent crime in advance through design targeting vulnerable areas and facilities. For the purpose of protecting the vulnerable and improving the quality of life of citizens, the types of regions are classified as areas with one-person female households, areas due for reconstruction, areas with a concentration of foreigners, areas with a large number of vacant and abandoned houses, areas with dense traditional markets, and university campuses. Areas were arranged into 15 categories, along with the neighboring areas. The Seoul Metropolitan Government seeks to establish guidelines by developing common principles applicable to the region, and to systematically propagate them through a policy project. Good projects are bound to have great influence. In order to upgrade into a good project, the Seoul Metropolitan Government continues to work on it.
The effectiveness index of the crime prevention design is reflected in the fear of crime. Basically, there is the position that a decrease in the crime rate is an appropriate indicator, but the crime rate has statistical issues and varies from region to region, and it is difficult to limit it to a certain region. In carrying out the project, it is necessary to lessen the fear of crime rather than take view that the effect of environmental improvement simply directly affects the crime rate, as various factors such as whether it is a redevelopment area, a residential area, a commercial area, and the demographic characteristics are taken into account. 

- Geumho 4-dong, Seongdong-gu (2018)
The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been promoting crime prevention design since 2011, and is making examples in each region. The case of Kumho 4-dong, Seongdong-gu, announced in 2018, is a residential complex whose redevelopment has been delayed. Residents in the area which is surrounded by high-rise apartments had a relatively high sense of deprivation in terms of their housing and always felt anxiety about the possibility of crime. In addition, it was not easy to check one's location when an emergency situation occurred because there were many similar types of multi-family houses.

Kumho-dong multi-family residential area

To solve the problem in these areas, we introduced a system to attach the address at a high position so that it can be seen from a distance. In addition, since dark alleyways look dangerous, sensor lights were attached to prevent the alleys from becoming too dark even at night. Volunteers and local residents were encouraged to think about safety by painting old places together, and carried out a closing campaign to convey the importance of safety. This is because it was determined that the business would be successful only when various programs were operated together, and the sense of belonging to the community would increase.

Improvement of alleyways in Geumho-dong

- Samyang-dong, Gangbuk-gu (2015)
In the Samyang-dong area of Gangbuk-gu, which was the site of a project in 2015, gardens were neglected so the landscape was somewhat disordered. Accordingly, dangerous abandoned houses or spaces were covered and an unused space was reimagined as a garden experience space, and a program operated by nearby students and parents was proposed and is currently in operation. As a result of the effectiveness evaluation with the Korea Institute for Criminal Policy, physical disorder that causes fear of crime damage decreased after the project was applied, and residents' attachment to the neighborhood tended to improve.


Samyang-dong Improvement Case

This project has spread to other local governments, and there are currently about 1500 projects nationwide. Rather than simply copying designs, hardware problems, software such as programs, and human ware such as education are also important. Therefore, the project results will be stable when these three things are properly balanced.
In addition, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has registered and managed patents so that the right to use the design can be guaranteed and spread to other regions in the right way. A total of 11 crime prevention design patents have been applied. In accordance with the expansion of Seoul’s policies and the expansion of projects for each local government, the National Police Agency also established a crime prevention CPO from 2015. Currently, about 500 people are active in it, and it is expected to achieve positive social effects in the future.

Cognitive Health Design: Daily Living Performance
When looking at social changes, not including the crimes in crime prevention design discussed above, aging has emerged as the biggest problem. Cognitive health design aims to maintain and improve cognitive health within the living area by improving into a safe, readable environment, and an environment with facilitation of five senses for families with dementia, for areas with a high proportion of the elderly population, and to create a cognitive health village that responds to dementia. The evaluation goal of cognitive health design is daily living performance. This refers to the basic performance ability for the elderly and physically handicapped to wear clothes, bathe, and use the toilet in daily life. The cognitive health design project intervened in public design with social issues of aging and dementia.
The proportion of people over 65 years old in Korea is 14%, and is expected to exceed 20% by 2026. This aging naturally leads to an increase in the number of dementia patients. However, according to a study conducted by a specialized institution, 60% of dementia patients live at home rather than in a facility or hospital, and their symptoms worsened due to a complicated or unsafe home environment.

- 100-year-old garden in Siheung-dong, Geumcheon-gu (2018)
Cognitive health projects are being developed by categorizing them into rental houses with many elderly residents and welfare centers with a high rate of elderly use. In 2018, Siheung-dong, Geumcheon-gu, was an area where the high-risk population accounted for 13% of the total, and it was an unsafe environment for the elderly to walk. As a result of the survey, it was found that there was no space where people could exercise lightly or communicate with each other in daily life.

Siheung-dong 100-year-old garden

The brand, 100 Years Old Garden, was named with the hope that the elderly will live a healthy life until the age of 100. It is expected that physical stimulation will awaken the brain's senses and increase cognitive health ability, physical activity, and life expectancy. In addition, flowers and trees representing the 24 sub-divisions of the seasons have been planted along the local promenade to stimulate the five senses of touch, smell, and hearing through the sounds and scenery of nature according to the season.

Siheung-dong 100-year-old garden

In addition, emotional stimulation was induced through the work of the artist who recorded various leaves in the form of a diary, exercise methods and exercise equipment were installed in various places along the trail to induce physical stimulation, and a gardening class was organised, to grow plants. This allowed social interaction. These social interactions can reduce the risk of dementia by reducing feelings of loneliness and stress.

- Rental Apartment Cognitive Health Design (2015)

Rental Apartment Cognitive Health Design

In 2015, the city of Seoul carried out a project applying smart design to a rental apartment space to enhance the cognitive abilities of the elderly. Signposts are labeled with names such as the sun, moon, and stars so that they can be easily recognized from the entrance or parking lot of the apartment. By attaching instruction pictures to an exercise space that is rarely used, it is possible to follow gymnastics programs, or to create a space for walking by installing a walking track in the inner space of the apartment. Inside the apartment, a large number is written in a color that stands out on each floor to distinguish the floor number well, and the mailbox is also redesigned in the same way. 

The Seoul Metropolitan Government works collaboratively with experts in elderly psychology, occupational therapy, or design and architecture on social problem solving design projects. Efficacy evaluation is being conducted together with the Korean Society for Dementia and professional research institutes. As a result of this evaluation, the daily performance ability of the target elderly improved by almost 80%, and in the case of finding a way, it was possible to see a positive effect of increasing by 90% and the frequency of walking or going out by almost 40%.

Effectiveness evaluation

In addition, three types of guidebooks for cognitive health living environments that can be applied to the real life of citizens were developed to be practically helpful. More than 30,000 copies of this booklet are being distributed to dementia centers and families of dementia patients across the country. The publication of these booklets has become a cornerstone of business expansion.

Youth problem-solving design: recovery of senses
In the evaluation of the effectiveness of the youth problem-solving design, the EEG measurement method to check whether sensory balance was found and the degree to which the fear of violence decreased were applied differently for each project type. The problems that adolescents saw as most pressing were being exposed to school violence and overuse of digital media, and they were categorized accordingly. As a result of the analysis of school violence, although physical violence decreased significantly, verbal and cyberbullying increased. Gossip among students was the main cause of school violence. Also, it was found that this phenomenon negatively impacted the sense of belonging. To solve this problem, from 2014 to the present, the basic space was redesigned to improve relationships and to increase the sense of belonging through creative activities. In 2018, in order to solve the problem of dependence on digital media, we conducted a project to induce balanced brain development by approaching emotionally through plants.

- Dongdaemun-gu Jeonil Middle School Maumful (2018)

Jeonil Middle School, before and after
In the ordinary classroom of Jeonil Middle School, a space was created where teenagers can directly feel nature. The name is ‘Maeum Pool’, which means that it will become a space where students can visit at any time to unwind, tend plants, and recharge their minds. In the program of Maumpool, the youth directly touched the soil, smelled it, watched the process of plants growing, and made dishes with the plants they grew themselves. This can revive the five senses, restore emotions, and lead to balanced brain development.
Under the judgment that it is good to receive professional help for smooth planting activities, the ‘Maeumful’ project continues to operate a program in which students from the Department of Landscape Architecture at a nearby municipal university participate as mentors. For maintenance, local civic gardeners are matched to help space management, and through this, local programs can be continuously operated.

Maumpool program

- Banghak-dong, Dobong-gu Play@vacation (2015),
An abandoned space near a school in Dobong-gu was created as a space for young people to communicate and have a conversation, so that they can improve their empathy. Play facilities were installed so that students with nowhere to go after school and on weekends can use the space.

Banghak-dong Play@vacation

- Gwangjin-gu Yongma Elementary School ‘I am Ground’ (2017)
Yongma Elementary School, located in Gwangjin-gu, utilizes an abandoned warehouse on campus to create a space where people can meet friends and expand friendships with each other. Through this space, students tried to positively change the negative sense of belonging created by gossip and verbal abuse. In the Blue Room of ‘I am Ground’, a relay play-type program in which several students cooperate, such as drawing characters, is being operated. This is because we decided that a program that would naturally form peer relationships while having fun with each other was appropriate. On the other hand, the green room is a space for small group gatherings. It is operated as a space to share information and talents through small gatherings such as student conferences, counseling, and club activities.
In terms of effectiveness, when the Ewha Womans University School Violence Prevention Research Institute evaluated the effectiveness for students who used I am Ground, the fear of school violence decreased by 10.5%, self-esteem increased by about 11%, and the 64.3% of the respondents said that this was helpful in preventing school violence.

Gwangjin-gu I am Ground

The cases so far have emphasized that if the program itself is good, it is the condition of impact, but some principles are absolutely necessary for the impact to last.

1. Participation of various groups
The first is that various groups must work together. Even in New York, she emphasized this point and said it several times, and I have experienced through several cases that the result can be different depending on how each role or content is designed from the planning of the project. Depending on the nature of the business, companies were directly recruited, and in some cases, interested companies or organizations offered actual participation in reverse. Through this, we found that the effect is slightly better when we do business with NGOs, banks, and large corporations.
Taking public crime prevention design as an example, public institutions such as the National Police Agency and the Office of Education, design experts and crime psychology experts worked together. The participation of various stakeholders such as local residents, regional-based religious groups, and social enterprises served as an opportunity to solidify the community after the completion of the project.

2. Strengthening domestic and international networking
The second principle is that we need to strengthen our domestic and international networks a little more. In this way, the business can move in a more developed direction. In the process of conducting an international seminar for the ‘Salt Road Project’, the first project of social problem-solving design, crime prevention design experts from the UK and Australia directly visited the area, and a thesis was published using this as an example. In addition, the process and results of social problem-solving design were submitted to domestic awards to serve as an opportunity for exchange and diffusion. Recently, the city of Seoul received the top prize at the Global Designer Awards and received the Presidential Citation in Korea. As a result of this award, it can serve as a dissemination of cases, and the forum can also become an important platform for creating networks.

3. Systematization of laws, ordinances and guidelines
In order for projects to truly change the daily life of citizens and become sustainable policies, it is necessary to promote institutional systematization such as guidelines, Seoul ordinances, and laws created based on the verification of pilot projects. In the case of crime prevention design, after the implementation of the project in 2012, about 163 ordinances were enacted nationwide and shared systematically.

The public design promotion plan established at the government level contains various excellent policies related to public design in Seoul. This is designed to be a major indicator or reference material when setting the direction of public design in other regions. In January 2018, the Seoul Metropolitan Government enacted the Social Problem Solving Design Ordinance for the first time at home and abroad. It has laid the institutional foundation for the spread of sustainable design policies.

Fig.24 Seoul problem-solving design

Design is leading positive changes in the daily life of citizens and society, and the Seoul Metropolitan Government is working hard to achieve this. The city of Seoul plans to continuously check how it affects society through continuous evaluation, and will continue to interact with citizens and experts at home and abroad to discover new cases that have a good social impact by using the evaluation results.

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