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Turning Points in the Korean Space-Economy: from the Developmental State to Intercity Competition, 1953-2000

Working Paper

Published By

Shorenstein APARC, page(s): 41

October 2000

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Territorial development processes and patterns in Korea from the 1950s have encountered four turning points. The first involved the reconstitution of the Korean nation state, which, following radical land reform, implicitly focused on the expansion of the Seoul Capital Region. The second came with the launching of strategies for export-oriented urban-industrial growth in the early 1960s, which led to the development, in the 1970s, of anurban-industrial corridor moving from the rapidly expanding metropolis of Seoul to thesoutheast coast, centered on Pusan and heavy industrial complexes. The third turning point was brought about by rising wages and labor costs; the ascending value of the Korean currency; and the overseas relocation of labor-intensive industries, which saw a repolarization of growth in Seoul and a deindustrialization of other metropolitan economies. While some regions outside of Seoul began to register high rates of economic growth around automotive and electronics industries in the early 1990s, this pattern was abruptly challenged at the fourth turning point, the 1997 financial crisis in East and Southeast Asia. Recovery from the crisis is being pursued under a fundamentally new political and economicstrategy of decentralized policy making. The major territorial development question facingKorea at this turning point is whether localities can create capacities to rebuild and sustain their economies through direct engagement in a turbulent world economy.

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