[OUTLOOK]Wanted: Better Planning for New CitiesEver since cities first appeared, the word implied both a political and administrative center and a market, a center of economic activity.
But as years passed by, the concept of "city" became weighted toward the sense of an administrative and political center, and the meaning of an economic center in the word faded away.
There are five new cities that have been built in the Seoul metropolitan area － Ilsan, Bundang, Pyeongchon, Jungdong and Sanbon. They illustrate the problems of cities that have lost the concept of a marketplace and, in addition, serve neither as political or administrative centers. They exist only as bedroom communities － housing areas for persons who work elsewhere.
Masses of people from Seoul moved into those cities, and that increased the pressure for economic development in Gyeonggi province.
Because of the development of these cities, distances between work and home increased for most people, and more stress was added to people's lives because of increased traffic congestion and extended rush hours for persons traveling to and from work.
Last month, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation said that it would create small "new cities" in eight districts of the metropolitan area, including Paju, Yongin, Yangju, Osan and Hwaseong.
The greatest flaw in all these new-city construction projects is that they are under the purview of the Housing Site Development Promotion Act and not the Urban Development Act.
If these projects were initiated under the rules of the Urban Development Act, the provincial governor would be in charge of them, but the Housing Site Development Promotion Act provides that the Construction Ministry oversees the project.
The new city projects are under the control of the central government, and that control is inadequate to do a good job of development.
The first problem with the Housing Site Development Promotion Act is that it puts more priority on supplying housing than it does on the environment and the ancillary problems that arise from creating a new high-density housing area. The housing site act is a special act that aims only at churning out more living units, with little consideration of the quality of life of the residents who will occupy that housing.
Critics have already pointed out that the sites proposed for the new towns are already crowded, and have little in the way of social infrastructure and public facilities.
Living conditions in those areas will be even worse when the population pressure there increases.
The second problem is that the new cities may not mesh with the overall framework of the metropolitan area development plan. Planning must be thorough, and all factors must be considered. The overall metropolitan plan calls for the distribution of political and administrative functions in many areas under development － not to concentrate those functions all in one place.
But development plans outlined by the housing site act call for maintaining the center of administrative and political activities in Seoul and sprinkling residential areas in the outer reaches of the metropolitan area. The act contradicts the major concept of recent development trends, which call for the dispersal of core civic services. Other parts of the metropolitan area should break off their dependence on Seoul for many functions; all areas should be developed in a balanced way. In order to do this, multiple administrative centers in Gyeonggi province should be developed.
It is desirable that the multi-centered cities of Gyeonggi province be divided into a southern region of the province centered at Suwon, Hwaseong and Anjung, a northern region of Seongnam, Icheon and Yeoju and another district centered at Gimpo and Paju.
If the new cities are built on a small scale, it would be hard for them to be self-sufficient. Therefore, the new cities should be more than 990,000 square meters in areas. But cities larger than 990,000 square meters must be approved by the construction minister. Cities smaller than 330,000 square meters present another problem; public facilities cannot be built on an economic scale, and businesses will not have enough of a population base to support them. So the development of small new towns is not practical, and those projects will probably fail.
At present, the Gyeonggi provincial office cannot draw up basic plans to develop cities on their own due to the Seoul Metropolitan Area Readjustment Planning Act. The related acts should be revised to provide the proper atmosphere for improving the living quality of Gyeonggi province residents, all 10 million of them.
The writer is the president of the Gyeonggi Research Institute.
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