Exclusion and Cooperation of the Urban Poor Outside the Institutional Framework of the Smart City: A Case of Seoul

Kon Kim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Although information and communication technology (ICT) has recently revolutionized human settlements, its allocation and availability have not been evenly distributed globally. Consequently, the urban poor have often been excluded from government-driven smart city projects due to their inability to access and utilize ICT. Instead, the urban poor have attempted to forge an alternative smart city-making pathway outside institutions, in collaboration with radical social groups. Thus, this article examines the nature of the development of poor urban communities in their alternative smart city-related practices by exploring changing power dynamics and social infrastructure across the boundaries of smart city institutions. The case study of Seoul demonstrates that the urban poor can build a unique social infrastructure through radical intermediary intervention, which can improve their communal autonomy and construct a self-governing system, albeit within constraints. This article also argues that radical organizational transition can deprive these populations of opportunities to engage in various smart city-related practices, particularly those driven by the public and private sectors with speculative motives, while little or no qualitative growth of their communal autonomy has occurred within the institutional framework. Therefore, this article criticizes the double-edged ambivalence of the alternative smart city-making pathway for the urban poor, where their right to the smart city remains unachieved, despite their radical approach contributing to genuinely humanizing smart urbanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13159
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • alternative smart city-making
  • digital divide
  • smartness
  • social infrastructure
  • the right to smart city


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