South Korea has only recently begun to explore alternatives to an industrial model of development or Industry 4.0. This transition can be seen in South Korea’s new cities, where smart city infrastructure is incorporated into new development and has meant using the power of the state to increase the efficiency of infrastructure, so that urban areas are now places where ‘smart’ and ‘green’ can be married through improved technology and subsidised planning. In a unitary system, one expects national policy to dictate local policy. But is this so? We investigate by comparing conceptions of ‘green’ and in the smart city of Songdo. We find a gap between what ordinary citizens expect and what the national government provides as defining characteristics of ‘green’ policies and the impact this has on what it means to be a ‘smart city’ in South Korea, highlighting the problem of policy distance in a unitary context.