&#91FOUNTAIN&#93Rush to urban madness

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[FOUNTAIN]Rush to urban madness

Citizens of the Roman Empire in the middle of the first century A.D. were beginning to revel in the Pax Romana, the period of about 200 years that followed the consolidation of the Roman Empire under Augustus, who died in the year 14.

The Pax Romana brought about an explosion of construction of cities and an artery of roads that totaled about 85,000 kilometers (52,800 miles) in length and were two meters (2.2 yards) thick, all guarded by strategically stationed forces.

The Roman Empire spread its lifestyle, currency and weights and measures to its colonies. Some colonies and other countries resisted the Roman standardization, but to little effect.

The peace led Roman citizens to indulge in lavish and frivolous lives. Romans were also dependent on their colonies for food supplies, and imposed harsher rule on people in the colonies. Romans needed more slaves who could deal with difficult, dirty and dangerous work.

The population of Rome reached 1.2 million persons in 100 B.C., out of whom slaves numbered 400,000.

Because of worries about such structural weakness, self-criticism arose in Rome. Publius Cornelius Tacitus, a renowned historian and consul of Asia of that time, said, "Romans made ruins and called them peace."

But the Roman style of ruling, according to which building cities in colonies to make administration more efficient, continued after the empire fell. The new rulers on every continent built central cities with political and commercial functions. Cities were effective in attracting more people, resources and money but agricultural regions gradually disappeared.

Modern cities have the same functions as those of the ancient and middle ages. And cities continue to expand when they are established. About 100 years ago, the world's largest cities were London with a population of 4.5 million, followed by New York with 3.4 million people and Paris with 2.5 million. But there are now more than 10 cities in the world with more than 10 million residents.

Currently people living in urban areas account for 48 percent, or 2.9 billion, of the global population. Asia is home to half the world's urban dwellers.

Koreans have been rushing into cities for the last 30 years, but Koreans are never satisfied with what they have built and want more. Is it too much to ask that we slow down?


by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

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