[OUTLOOK]Three steps to a model cityThe Constitutional Court has turned down a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the special law on the construction of a government administrative city in the Yeongi and Gongju region.
The ruling contradicts the decision made by the same court on October 21, 2004 that the special legislation to build a new administrative capital was unconstitutional.
Now, we can interpret that as long as the legislature, the judiciary, the president and major ministries remain in Seoul, building a new administrative city is not a capital relocation.
The National Assembly, the Supreme Court and the Blue House will stay in Seoul, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of National Defense, the Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs, the Ministry of Gender Equality, the Board of Audit and Inspection, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and the National Police Agency.
The office of the prime minister and 12 ministries, including the Ministry of Finance and Economy, four agencies and two services, including the National Tax Service, will move to the Yeongi-Gongju area. In appearance, we will have bipolar administrative cities, and the national administrative backbones will be divided between Seoul and the Yeongi-Gongju area. Germany already has a similar pattern with administrative functions divided between Berlin and Bonn. Let’s look at a few things we need to seriously consider for our bipolar administrative cities.
Firstly, the government needs to humbly acknowledge the voices against the idea of building bipolar administrative cities. The justifications to relocate some key government functions to Yeongi and Gongju were to resolve overpopulation in the capital region and to accommodate a balanced development of our nation. I presume that hardly any citizen is against the causes of balanced development and reduction of overcrowding. The focus of the debate is the methodology used. The government certainly needs to listen to the opinions of opponents of the project. They ask whether the relocation of administrative functions is the only way to pursue balanced development, and suggest subsidizing revenue resources directly to non-capital regions. Moreover, the critics say we need to keep unification in mind and consider the potential decrease in efficiency of dividing administrative functions. By listening and embracing such opinions on the new administrative city, the government will be able to build the city in the Yeongi-Gongju area with citizens applauding.
Secondly, it is time to reorganize the structure of the Korean territory. Today, nine out of ten Koreans live in a city. As the Yeongi-Gongju region has been designated the site for the new administrative city, a new metropolis is expected to form there. In addition to the existing metropolitan areas around Seoul, Busan, Daegu and Gwangju, the territorial structure of Korea will see populations concentrated on the new area centered in Yeongi-Gongju that will encompass the Cheongju and Daejeon areas. If so, the government can accomplish balanced development of the country only by more aggressively pursuing the development of existing small and mid-sized cities and farming and fishing communities. Therefore, it is time for the government to propose a more convincing paradigm by reshuffling the territorial structure by connecting the metropolises, small and mid-sized cities and farming and fishing communities.
Thirdly, we have an excellent opportunity to build a model administrative city in the Yeongi-Gongju area that can be proudly presented to the world. With the Geum River flowing through vast farmland and surrounded by mountains, the region is the perfect site for a city with a population of a half million. There can be many plans to build an administrative city on the site with nature’s blessing. The government has already collected many brilliant ideas on the establishment of an administrative city through an international contest. For example, we could build public facilities and residential and commercial districts where mountains meet farmland, which have little risk of flood. An environmentally-friendly park can be placed on farmland, like Central Park in New York City. The basin of the Geum River can be converted into a waterfront park full of culture surrounded by nature.
Transportation within the city can be accommodated by building a monorail, which will reduce air pollution from engine exhaust, and the city can be equipped with cutting-edge communication networks. With thorough planning, we can build a 21st century model city with a harmony of culture, environment and information.
* The writer is a professor of geography at Sunshin Women’s University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kwon Yong-woo