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Globalization and Urbanization in Korea

Tokyo Workshop

November 31 and December 1, 1998

Co-organized by the World Bank and
the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) of Japan

Abstracts of Papers Presented

Globalization and Urbanization in Korea
Sang Chuel Choe

Large cities have played a crucial role in the East Asian Miracle. Professor Sang Chuel Choe’s paper discusses the effect of globalization on urbanization in the Republic of Korea, and assesses the effectiveness of policies to minimize excessive urban concentration. Many policies, which sought to disperse industry in and around Seoul, were found wanting, and with hindsight, interventions such as greenbelts appear to be of dubious value. As a matter of fact, it was a growth rate of about 5 percent in manufacturing employment in Korea that alleviated some emerging problems of population concentration in Seoul and other large cities (with population exceeding one million) during the 1970s and 1980s. The creation of new industrial zones helped absorb a significant number of migrants who would otherwise have moved to Seoul or other large cities. Professor Choe’s paper sheds light on the linkages between globalization and the structure of employment, the industrial mix, the pace of growth and the increasing importance of agglomeration for growth in Korea. Cities, such as Seoul, Pusan, Taegu have been the key players in the reallocation and reorganization of resources for industrial production and economic growth. With this increased importance came a demand for a stronger voice for localities and decentralization. As a result, in 1995, elections at the level of mayor and council members were held for the first time. Professor Choe emphasizes that the urban environment, education, infrastructure, and regional coordination are keys to the success of megacities. And local governments have to live up to these concerns in order to make their municipalities competitive in the global system. Finally, he argues that in developing countries, a crisis impinging upon the economy of the largest city could have major effects for the rest of the economy.

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