Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Seoul Livability

This Financial Times piece is a bit unfair to London, in my opinion, but it has me even more excited to be in Korea this summer.

London: Not As Liveable As I'd Like (Tyler Brûlé)
« Spend two days in Seoul and London starts to look and feel like a sleepy, stagnant backwater. At Incheon airport you can spy UK designers flying in to work on high-profile projects for South Korea’s biggest technology players. At the headquarters of a major financial services company the chief executive is meeting a Pritzker Prize-winning architect to embark on the creation of a concert hall for his credit card holders. Beneath the streets, rails are being laid for an expanding metro system and stations are being overhauled into gleaming hubs to serve the citizens of one of the hardest working capital cities in the world. At the Park Hyatt Seoul staff deliver a level of service that’s mirrored across a variety of sectors in South Korea’s economy. As the nation becomes less competitive as a manufacturer its financial, retail, transport and technology companies are all sharpening their skills to take their respective games global. Even Mayor Oh’s promise to make his city greener or more design-minded seems to be coming good.

[Seoul has] fashioned itself into a major passenger and logistics hub, is home to some of the best hotels in the world and crackles around the clock. Korea Inc’s executives want to work and learn from the best and leaders at both the local and national level have embraced the liveability mantra to retain and attract talent.

As I crossed Oxford Street on Saturday afternoon there was little of this sort of crackle – just a lot of crack. Up and down the street tummies were hanging out over jeans, food was being stuffed into faces, and bums were falling out of trousers. Was this a nation at rest and play on a gorgeous spring day? Perhaps. Was this also a fleeting snapshot of a nation that’s lost its dignity and sense of pride? For sure.

As a chronic low-scorer on global liveability surveys it’s surprising that none of the UK’s political party strategists have embraced a message that’s become central to leaders elsewhere. A manifesto for “A More Liveable UK” would surely be a vote and inward-investment winner. »