[Viewpoint]Reckless growth along expressway

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[Viewpoint]Reckless growth along expressway

The government recently announced a plan to develop a new town for 260,000 people in Dongtan-myeon, Hwaseong county, Gyeonggi. The plan also calls for developing a total of 10 new town districts for 580,000 households, or 1.5 million people, in the Seoul metropolitan area.
In addition to this, a plan to develop a total of 14,580 square kilometers (5,630 square miles) of land for housing in the Seoul metropolitan area is being promoted. Altogether, it is highly likely there will be an oversupply of homes in the capital region.
Making matters worse, the government did not take into account balanced development for the nation and the population density of Seoul’s metropolitan area when it chose the locations and size of the new districts.
It is a well-known fact that we have a problem of unbalanced development between the Seoul metropolitan area and other areas.
It is not as well known to the public, however, that there is an even more serious development gap between the area that runs along the Seoul-Busan Expressway and the rest of the nation, between urban areas and rural districts and between big cities and small and medium sized cities.
Let’s take a close look at the imbalance within 10 kilometers on both sides of the Seoul-Busan Expressway and the rest of the national territory.
In that area, which covers only 8.9 percent of the national territory, 56.7 percent of the total population reside. It is even more densely populated than the Seoul metropolitan area, where a total of 48 percent of the country’s population is concentrated in 11.8 percent of the nation.
In other words, the size of the land that belongs to the Seoul-Busan belt is about three-quarters the size of the Seoul metropolitan area, but its population is 4 million more than Seoul.
If we divide the Seoul-Busan belt area into two, just below Daejeon, the population density of the area north of Daejeon is 2.5 times higher than that of the Seoul metropolitan area.
About 39.1 percent of the population is concentrated in the narrow area that takes only 4 percent of the national territory.
What is even worse is that the development gap between the Seoul-Busan Expressway area and the rest of the nation will grow bigger in the future. Among 10 new town districts under development, six of them, which will comprise 60 percent of the total area and can accommodate 56 percent of the population of the new town districts, are going to be within the bounds of Seoul metropolitan region of the Seoul-Busan Expressway area, which is one-fifth of Seoul’s metropolitan sprawl.
If this trend continues, major cities such as Incheon, Seoul, Suwon, Cheonan, Sejong (the new administrative capital under the plan) and Daejeon will be connected into one huge belt of urban cities along the expressway within 20 years.
Besides the plans to create new town districts in Seoul’s metropolitan area, there are other development plans in the region.
They include plans to build a new administrative capital, Sejong City, a new town in the southwestern part of Daejeon and a new town in Asan, South Chungcheong.
The total population in the planned new towns in the area will exceed 1.4 million. When all of the new towns are completed, more than 43 percent of the total population will be living in the Seoul-Busan Expressway area, which is only 4 percent of the national territory.
The construction of a new town requires not only its own urban infrastructure, but also a new integrated urban infrastructure that will connect the new town with other areas.
This will work as an inducement for the development of the outskirts of new towns.
This, in turn, will induce a population increase there.
I believe we have to promote balanced development of our national territory by placing the Seoul-Busan Expressway area under strict government supervision, instead of inducing reckless development there.
The “participatory government” has adopted the balanced development of national territory as its priority policy, but it is doing just the opposite
New towns should not be swayed by the logic of the real estate market. There should be a drastic change in the new town development policy of the government.

*The writer is a professor of urban engineering at Chungju National University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kweon Ihl
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