Seoul was amongst the very first cities to reveal its metaverse ambitions way back in November 2021. It also went on to announce that it would invest KRW 7 billion ($5.2 million) in metaverse technologies as part of its digital transformative strategy.
And now we’re seeing the first glimmers of their plans as a closed beta version of the Seoul metaverse is being rolled out to testers and trusted guests.
Come 2026, Seoul hopes to have a standard metaverse environment for every administrative service such as education, culture, tourism and economy. The new beta version will allow them gather enough feedback from users which will be used to improve the overall experience and fix any bugs before officially launching the first service phase in late November this year.
Selected users who are able to access Metaverse Seoul using their personal avatars will be able to experience what Seoul calls “realistic virtual spaces” of Seoul City Hall and Seoul Plaza. An example (pictured above) features residents gathering to take part in a traditional new year bell ringing ceremony.
The brave new metaverse world
Park Jong-Soo, Director General of Seoul’s Smart City Policy Bureau said last year, “Metaverse is evolving into different forms based on technological levels and user demand. In particular, it is gaining traction as a new paradigm for post-COVID-19.”
Jong-Soo added: “The SMG (Seoul Municipal Government) will pioneer a new continent called the Metaverse Seoul where public demand and private technologies are combined. For all age groups to enjoy the benefits, we will work on the Metaverse Seoul and make Seoul a smart, inclusive city.”
Several behemoth cities around the world, from Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai have all shown interest in the highly-talked about virtual space which Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls “the future of the internet.
The concept gained massive traction after Facebook rebranded to Meta in 2021 and made it a priority to create and perfect the metaverse. And although the metaverse has received both praise and criticism, the National League of Cities (NLC) has urged local governments to engage early with emerging technologies and ideas.