Sejong’s elusive modelPutrajaya, Malaysia’s new administrative municipality located south of Kuala Lumpur, had inspired the former South Korean administration to create one of its own to fulfill decentralization hopes. Former President Roh Moo-hyun came to envy the place during his visit in 2005, encouraging government officials to take a tour around the planned city.
Certainly, the government should refer to global examples and establishments before launching large-scale public projects. But in doing so, it must first of all scrutinize what it takes as benchmarks and then sift out what can best suit our environment. If not, it can find itself on the wrong track and cause chaos as it has done with Sejong City.
Sejong and Putrajaya differ from their inception. Malaysia mapped out the administrative center design as a part of an extensive capital development project. Envisioning the biggest intelligence town in Southeast Asia, it established a spacious business zone, the Multimedia Super Corridor, on a 15-kilometer-wide (9.3 mile-wide) and 50-kilometer long territory between Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur International Airport. To ease overcrowding in the capital, federal government functions were shifted to the new town 40 kilometers from the capital. Meanwhile, the Sejong City project has sallied forth to spur deconcentration and balance regional development.
In terms of city design, Putrajaya is an ideal model. The town is abundant with greenery and open space. It was designed and built by local specialists and has become a landmark among architects around the world. It forges harmony between modern architecture and the natural landscape, providing a spacious, clean environment. Moreover, it brims with residential, commercial and recreational facilities and it is furnished with a high-speed railway that connects the city with the capital and airport.
But Sejong City has overlooked such infrastructure necessities without which the city cannot attract a residential population. Even with such provisions, Putrajaya still remains largely empty ahead of full completion next year, housing mostly government workers and just 25 percent of its earmarked population.
Malaysians have been preparing for the city for the past 30 years and should take pride in their accomplishment. We should learn from their successes and mistakes and also differentiate between the two. We hope we can also make Sejong an enviable city and one our future generations can be proud of.