GK:2.3.1 Urban population distribution – highly concentrated metropolitan areas
Geography of Korea: II. Population and Living Space > 3. Urban Spaces > 1) Urban population distribution – highly concentrated metropolitan areas
1) Urban population distribution – highly concentrated metropolitan areas
Looking at Korea’s population size by urban areas, one feature that stands out is the population concentration in Seoul and its environs. If one considers the Seoul Capital Region comprising the three areas of Seoul, Gyeonggi-do province, and Incheon, though this area makes up only about 11 percent of the territorial extent of South Korea it contains about 50 percent of the country’s population. Next is size are the cities of Busan, Ulsan, and Daegu, large cities in the Yeongnam region (meaning Gyeongsangnam-do and Gyeongsangbuk-do provinces), followed by Daejeon, Cheonan, and Cheongju in the Chungcheong region (Chungcheongnam-do and Chungcheongbuk-do provinces), and then the relatively smaller cities of Gwangju (Jeollanam-do province) and Jeonju and Iksan in Jeollabuk-do province.
Looking at the distribution of cities as of 2010, several features stand out. First, we see increasing numbers of major cities growing towards metropolitan status, such as Incheon Metropolitan City, Daejeon Metropolitan City, and Gwangju Metropolitan City, as well as gaps in the living areas that are centered on these major urban centers; second, we also notice a Seoul-Busan urban corridor, with urban centers forming along this axis; and third, one notes the heavy urbanization of the capital region centered on Seoul Special City. These peripheral urban centers reflect suburbanization—the dispersal of dwellings, and along with them services and government-related infrastructure, to the outlying areas of the capital.
The remarkable growth of the capital region has resulted in more opportunities there in terms of education, jobs, income, and a host of other services relative to other areas, as well as its good accessibility due to its transportation linkages with other urban areas. Due to the concentration of the population in the capital region as well as that region’s advantages compared to other regions in terms of services, real estate prices in the capital region have increased, triggering a growth of real estate speculators. However, the concentration of the population in the capital region, besides the rise in real estate prices, has also resulted in traffic congestion and serious air pollution, the reduction of leisure space, and a deterioration in overall quality of life. Therefore, it is vital that efforts be made to strike a balance between the capital region and other areas in terms of development.
With the aim of dispersing the concentrated population of the Seoul capital region and promoting the balanced development of the country, policies have been enforced to curb the population growth of the capital region. In 1990, a policy was initiated to disperse central government administrative offices to Daejeon and in 2009 some ten government agencies, including the the National Statistical Office (Tonggyecheong), Patent Office (Teukheocheong), and Military Manpower Administration (Byeongmucheong), were moved to the Daejeon Government Complex. In 2003, then President Roh Moo-hyun had established the Special Law for the New Administrative Capital with the aim of relocating the capital entirely to Daejeon. However, as South Korea’s Constitution Court ruled this law on transferring the capital to be unconstitutional, stating that such a move could only be done through a constitutional amendment, the government pushed ahead with amended plans for the construction of a multifunctional administration city with the same of Sejong city (named after one of Korea’s most celebrated monarchs), and in 2012 Sejong Special Autonomous City was formally inaugurated.