Too late to innovate?The former Roh Moo-hyun administration apparently exaggerated the economic effects of innovation cities by as much as three times. The hypothesis that public corporations and workers at public organizations and their families would move from Seoul to other cities was unrealistic to begin with. Plus, the decrease in economic activity in the Seoul metropolitan area was not reflected, while the forecast of job increases in the service industry in other cities was doubled in the government report.
A mega-sized government project that would cost 43 billion won ($44 million) has been initiated based on a sloppy report.
The interim report by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is also shocking. The report states that companies are not looking to relocate to innovation cities because building costs are two to six times higher than office space in neighboring industrial complexes.
The prices of apartments in innovation cities are so high that it is likely many units will remain unsold. In short, innovation cities have poor prospects.
Former President Roh said: “I want to drive a stake and nails through [innovation cities] before my presidential term is over.” His wish might come true. As of late last year, 1.6 trillion won ($1.62 billion) was paid in compensation for land and more than 50 percent of land compensation deals were agreed upon.
If the project is changed now, the government should prepare for local residents to protest.
However, it is wrong to isolate innovation cities when they don’t attract companies; we can’t spend tens of trillion of won to build ghost cities.
The project of innovation cities must be changed at its foundation. Another disaster, similar to the Saemangeum reclamation in 2006 that had an negative impact on the environment, must be prevented from happening.
There is no doubt that efforts for local development must be continued. However, the Seoul metropolitan area and other areas are not in competition with rival cities.
Busan and South Gyeongsang Province are closer to Kyushu, Japan, than to Seoul. South and North Jeolla provinces can find another chance for development if they turn their sights toward the Shanghai economic zone.
We don’t need to be obsessed with transfers of public corporations whose potential benefits have been exaggerated.