Travel Guide

Why Are So Many Roofs in South Korea Green?

Jonathan
January 18, 2024

Ever noticed the vibrant green roofs while exploring Korean cities or through aerial shots in dramas? There’s more to these green rooftops than meets the eye. Let's dive into why most Korean rooftops are painted green and why the green roofs of Korea might be a thing of the past.

3 Main Reasons: The Practicality of Green Paint

✔️Waterproofing

The main reason for the green hue is the use of urethane waterproof paint, which contains chromium oxide. This compound doesn't dissolve in water or alcohol and naturally exhibits a deep green color.


✔️Thermal Insulation

The green paint, apart from its waterproofing qualities, also offers moderate insulation against heat and cold, contributing to temperature regulation within buildings.


✔️Cost-Effectiveness

Opting for the paint in its default green color is more economical than adding extra pigments. This practical cost-saving measure is a significant factor in the widespread use of green paint, especially on larger surfaces like rooftops.

© David Zhang

Urban Myths and Misconceptions

❌Air Raid Camouflage?

An intriguing myth is that the green rooftops were intended to camouflage buildings from aerial attacks – a notion without historical evidence but rooted in wartime practices of disguising important structures.

❌Visual Relief Theory?

Another popular theory is that the green color was chosen to provide visual relief and mimic natural environments, creating an illusion of greenery in urban landscapes.


Despite these interesting theories, the truth remains firmly grounded in the practical and economic aspects of building maintenance--it's just cheaper to paint the roofs green.

© Sam Balye

Evolution to ‘Cool Roofs’: Shifting to White

In a modern twist, Korea is seeing a trend towards ‘Cool Roofs’ – painting rooftops white to enhance solar reflectance. This change significantly reduces heat absorption, making buildings cooler.

By reflecting sunlight, white roofs contribute to lowering urban temperatures and reducing the need for air conditioning, thus saving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

The green rooftops of Korea, a result of practical choices and surrounded by urban myths, are now part of a larger narrative of environmental consciousness. The shift towards ‘Cool Roofs’ signifies Korea’s commitment to sustainable urban development, marrying tradition with modern ecological sensibilities.

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Cover photo: © Marco Zuppone