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close this bookEmerging World Cities in Pacific Asia (UNU, 1996, 528 pages)
close this folderPart 2. Changing Asia-Pacific world cities
close this folderSeoul: A global city in a nation of rapid growth
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe determinants of a world city
View the documentThe spatial pattern of industrialization
View the documentThe primacy of Seoul and the capital region
View the documentA new perspective in spatial policy: Globalization
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences


Over the past three decades South Korea has achieved economic development by relying heavily on export growth. South Korea's trade volume accounted for more than two-thirds of its GNP and 2 per cent of world trade in 1990. The South Korean share in world trade has increased 10 times since the 1960s. Overseas travel has been increasing at a rate of 19.8 per cent annually since the adoption of a liberal economic policy in the mid-1980s. In 1989, 46 out of 1,000 persons travelled abroad. Incoming foreign travellers have also increased at a rate of 13.6 per cent annually since 1985. Currently South Korea is a member of 872 international organizations.

Commodity trade, the cross-border movement of labour, and foreign direct investment will be expanded further. As the Uruguay Round (UR) reached a successful conclusion in 1994, the liberalization of trade in services and commodities on a global basis will be expanded further. At the same time, following the formation of regional economic blocs such as the European Union (KU) and the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), Asian Pacific countries have been actively engaged in an effort to form regional economic blocs. This trend towards regional cooperation will enhance cooperation among countries in the region.

Recently, many cities in North-East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region have been initiating regional cooperation on a city-to-city basis. Some of the medium-sized cities actively engaged in such efforts include Kobe, Kitakyushu, and Niigata in Japan, Khabarovsk, Sakhalin, and Irkutsk in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Jilin, Dalian, and Hunchun in China. As intraregional cooperation progresses, many South Korean cities, including Pusan, Pohang, Ulsan, and Incheon, will resume international functions. There are six cities in South Korea with a population over 1 million. Some of these cities, currently active on a regional basis, will grow into taking global roles in future as the globalization trend advances.

However, with a great concentration of information and professional manpower, Seoul will remain the centre of international affairs in the nation. This chapter traces South Korea's compressed economic growth and the related pattern of spatial development. It also focuses on the development of Seoul's global functions in the process of industrialization. A global city is defined as a city whose "environment" provides global competitiveness for its residents and firms.

In the next section of this chapter, the determinants of globalization are explained and the characteristics of a global city are investigated in terms of the competitiveness of the residents. In the third section, regional development and the migratory pattern in South Korea are reviewed in the light of its economic and industrial development. The fourth section analyses the centrality of Seoul in domestic and global functions. In the fifth section, the consequences of the policy of growth control of past decades are evaluated in the light of recent development patterns in Seoul and the Capital region. Signs of change in the spatial policy are investigated along with globalization processes. The final section summarizes the possible impacts of trade liberalization and industrial restructuring processes on the future roles of Seoul and the Capital region.