Off balancePresident Roh Moo-hyun attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Innovation City Project yesterday in Seogwipo, Jeju. He stressed that succeeding administrations should not change the policy of supporting balanced development in all regions. He explained that if high school academic records are weakly reflected in university admission criteria, students who go to foreign language high schools and other schools in the Seoul metropolitan area have an unfair advantage. He also added that if the comprehensive real estate tax is changed to a local tax, local areas will be at a disadvantage.
It looks like the president is attempting to alienate people living in metropolitan areas from those who live in other regions on the pretext of balanced development. He is using the education and taxation systems as test cases.
When it comes to balanced development, the mainstream of the world tends to focus on “people” instead of “places.” But Roh has been focusing on places since he entered office and he continues to divide people into different categories based on where they live. He has presented politically motivated schemes such as the building of “administrative” and “innovation” cities. The problem is that building such cities will place a financial burden on the people for a very long time into the future.
An innovation city is supposed to be built as a satellite city on the outskirts of a larger local city, and several public institutions and offices will be moved there. But many experts doubt that building innovation cities can produce development in the region where they are nestled. They worry that new satellite cities will instead antiquate neighboring cities and cause them to rapidly atrophy. In Daejeon and Gwangju, their downtown areas have declined since new satellite cities were built. The effective way to spur the development of local areas is to find industries that will be competitive and nurture those industries to revive economies.
The ones who really gain are the owners of land in areas designated as construction sites for innovation cities. They will get healthy compensation for their land, but they are the only people who will benefit from the project. Most local residents will be damaged as their downtowns decline, and the people will have to bear the cost of moving public institutions to the new cities.
People must know how much damage and financial cost this balanced development policy will cause and urge the government to prepare more sensible measures.