Building urban flood resilience through institutional adaptive capacity: A case study of Seoul, South Korea

Bokjin Ro, Gregg Garfin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Building resilience has been a critical agenda for disaster risk management, but how to build and what to build tend to remain abstract. Our analysis offers insights on practices deployed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to increase the city's resilience to floods. By specifically choosing two districts in the city, we interviewed key informants involved in flood risk management (FRM) and reviewed documents on FRM at the city and local levels. We manually coded the qualitative data by matching the content with 22 institutional adaptive capacity criteria developed by Gupta and colleagues. We found that the deployment of formal local public organizations, supported by South Korea's city and local level institutional arrangements, augmented human resources and enhanced flood resilience through constructive redundancy in flood risk monitoring and neighborhood-level outreach to community members. We also found that long-term (e.g., 10-year) risk management plans may possibly become a barrier to exploratory and reflexive social learning processes (i.e., double-loop learning), unless there is an effort to regularly examine and reframe risk in the plans. Seoul can further enhance resilience to floods by increasing citizens' abilities to act (i.e., strengthening their capacity for autonomous actions); this can most effectively be done by providing individuals with plans and detailed scripts for action in the face of flood risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103474
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023


  • Adaptive capacity
  • Flood risk management
  • Institutional system
  • Resilience
  • Urban flood risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Safety Research
  • Geology


Dive into the research topics of 'Building urban flood resilience through institutional adaptive capacity: A case study of Seoul, South Korea'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this