City Story

An Expert Tells a Tale of Two Cities

Aviation service plays an important role not only in terms of people and logistics but also in the flow of information and capital. Cities that possess the functions for forming global connections are called ‘gateway cities.’


Written by Prof. Nahm Kee-bom, Department of Urban Sociology at the University of Seoul

The Incheon International Airport Terminal 2, which was opened in 2018

Building a Complex Logistics System that Connects the World

Gateway cities around the world can advance themselves by forming connections to ports and airports. Such is the case for the IFEZ, as well. Yeongjong sports an advanced railway and road system centered around Incheon International Airport. Based on this, the formation of a new city emerged, while entertainment functions related to the functions of the airport itself grew quickly, in turn. Songdo, located between Incheon International Airport and the Port of Incheon, is home to more than 100 global R&D centers, global campuses for Korean and international universities, and international organizations, all thanks to its geographical advantages. Utilizing these features, Songdo is transforming itself as a convergence and complex space for creating value through the connection of space, technology, and people.

Meanwhile, nearby Cheongna is also emerging as a global business town based on the infrastructure of Yeongjong and Songdo.
In comparison, Singapore aspires to serve as the Southeast Asian hub in all aspects. The main transportation facilities are well established and, at the core of this network, lies Changi Airport, bringing improved accessibility to the vicinity surrounding the airport. The Singapore Expo was built next to the airport in order to trigger aviation demands, and Changi Business Park, which supports cutting-edge industrial activities, is contributing greatly to the improvement of national competitiveness. In particular, it implements R&D centers specialized in biomedicine, electronic engineering, and chemistry while building the necessary infrastructure for education and medical services.

Tolerance Is Required in Becoming a Complete Gateway City

When taking into account the global networks formed through the experiences of hosting international conferences, housing regional headquarters for transnational companies, and serving as the capital for the Chinese expats’ diaspora, Singapore seems superior to the IFEZ in terms of its role as a gateway city. However, when comparing the potential of the vicinities and daily-life environments, the future value of the IFEZ can be truly acknowledged.

In particular, the spread of Korean pop culture and the exemplary case of ‘K-quarantine’ are well renowned and can help spread the potential for the IFEZ to emerge even faster as a gateway city.
Richard Florida, an American theorist on urban studies, is the one responsible for inventing the concept of a creative city, naming ‘3 Ts’ as prerequisites for a sustainable city — Technology, Talents, and Tolerance.

He highlighted that not only trailblazing industry and creative talent matter in producing sound growth for a city, but tolerance and inclusiveness must also exist to embrace diversity and assist in healthy growth. The IFEZ now has such sound conditions in place for global technologies and talents to settle in, as it boasts international organizations and top-tier international universities. With the added characteristic of being an inclusive and tolerant city, it is certain that the IFEZ can one day emerge as the world’s exemplary gateway city.

Singapore Changi Airport, which is always ranked highly among the world’s top airports

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