Participatory Risk Governance for Seoul, South Korea’s Flood Risk Management

Bokjin Ro, Gregg Garfin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Risk governance is a widely used framework in natural and societal risk management research. Risks from natural hazards in urban areas call for the establishment of rigorous and participatory urban risk governance. In this study, we examined participatory risk governance (PRG) of flood risk management (FRM) in Seoul, South Korea. We conducted key informant interviews and implemented a survey with citizens, to explore perceptions of flood risks and risk management, and to examine prospects for improving PRG in Seoul. We found a gap between the perceptions of key informants and citizens. Key informants believed that citizens’ low awareness of flood risks hinders PRG. Yet our research found that citizens’ risk awareness was not low, and risk awareness may not be the main barrier to participation in PRG. Instead, we found that citizens lacked knowledge of FRM actions, and they assigned government bodies a high level of responsibility for FRM, compared to the level of responsibility that citizens assigned to themselves. Moreover, the actors involved in FRM tended not to trust each other, which implies a lack of mutual understanding. To increase the effectiveness of PRG, we suggest a polycentric governance structure anchored by a leading actor group, and active promotion of the participation of actors at multiple levels of governance. Communication between government and citizen participants, designed to foster improved understanding and recognition of one another’s roles and contributions to FRM, will enhance trust and improve the implementation of PRG in Seoul.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Citizen participation
  • Flood risk management
  • Participatory risk governance
  • Risk awareness
  • South Korea
  • Urban flood risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Safety Research
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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