Focus on individualsThe Roh administration had proposed a range of urban development plans in the name of promoting balanced development between regions as the cornerstone of its five year-term. Yet the various plans did not contribute to balanced development, but rather caused housing prices to soar and diminished national competitiveness.
Real estate prices rose by 25.2 percent during the five years of the Roh administration. In the previous decade between 1992 and 2002, the real estate price had been stabilized as it decreased by 10.2 percent.
Soaring real estate prices added more burden to companies and drove them overseas, which hindered economic growth. The Roh administration, however, does not seem to be concerned about these outcomes but relentlessly continues its national development plans. When the proposal to move the capital city became impossible due to the ruling by the Constitutional Court, the government pressed forward with it under a different guise, to build an administrative complex.
The next president should first stop the plan to establish another political center. The sites which have been already purchased by the government can be used for other purposes, such as education or science complexes. Indeed the ramifications of education and science cities are more important to nearby areas than those of an administrative city. The idea to build a new city for a government complex should be reviewed from the ground up. If at least several of the government buildings are moved, only a few necessary institutions can be transferred.
In addition to that, the next president should discard the anachronistic goal of “balanced development.” What we need now is not balanced development but increasing the quality of life across the country. That does not require developing all rural areas into cities.
Let the farms be farms, and rural areas be rural. Highlight the particularities of different areas and concentrate on a few urban areas that should be developed as cities. Concentration and choice are more important than ever. In the meantime, we should focus on people, so that the benefits of economic development can be evenly distributed to all citizens. Enhancing the autonomy of local governments is effective for that purpose, such as transfering larger shares of taxes to the locals.
The theories of balanced development that focus on location are already a part of 20th century history. The global trend nowadays is to focus on people instead of location as a strategy for economic development. Countries such as Britain or France that used to pursue concentration in a few cities long ago have changed their perspective. They now see that the competitive power of London and Paris feed all other areas. Japan also discussed the viability of moving its capital city, but now they have reversed their direction completely.
We hope the next president will awake from the dream of balanced development that sounds more important than what it really means. He should instead focus on individuals and support each and every one to have a quality life.
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