Studies of Urbanization and Migration in Advanced and Developing Countries
Edited by H. S. Geyer
H. W. Richardson, C. C. Bae and NI. Jun INTRODUCTION South Korea has undergone a major transformation since the end of the Korean War. Propelled by a long era of export-oriented industrialization, its per capita income rose fiom subsistence levels (in the 1950s comparable with the living standards of Sri Lanka) to advanced economy levels by the 1990s. The economy finally sputtered in the wake of the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and has not yet recovered. Over the period of four decades, the capital of Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan region dominated the spatial landscape. Although agglomeration economies and other market forces were very important, the role of the national government was also influential. The changes in Seoul’s metropolitan spatial structure were molded by government investments in transportation (e.g. bridges across the Han River, subways and suburban rail lines), a strategy for decentralizing both industrial establishments and educational facilities, a very restrictive Green belt policy, and a very impressive New Towns construction program. On the whole, these policies enabled the Capital Region to adapt its spatial structure to continuing growth forces without having to incur the core city congestion that would have compelled much earlier interurban and interregional decentralization trends. As a result, the Seoul metropolitan area still accounts for 45 percent of the national population and more than one-half of the urban population in this highly urbanized country. CHANGES IN THE NATIONAL URBAN HIERARCHY Although Seoul became the national capital centuries ago, its population remained small (96,000...
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