Plans continue to move several governmental institutions to Sejong City, known as the new administrative capital. However, the move has not been universally welcomed and the controversy, which began in 2003, is being reexamined by the 21st National Assembly. In 2002, then presidential candidate Roh Moo-hyun promised to move the Blue House and government departments to Chungcheong-do province to reduce the influence of Seoul on the nation and balance out development and investment in the nation. When he took office as president in 2003, he launched his plans to relocate the administrative capital. The National Assembly passed the New Administrative Capital Law (NACL) on January 16, 2004 and by August 11, the New Administrative Capital Construction Promotion Committee chose Yeongi-gun and Gongju-si as sites for the new administrative capital. However, the NACL was deemed unconstitutional by the high court on October 21, 2004. The judges ruled the constitution must be revised to legally relocate the capital. I support the construction of new administrative capital for the following three reasons; The plan would create more balanced development in the country, solve our current capital area real estate problems and protect the nation from potential disasters by diversifying the locations of key government offices.
The construction of a new administrative capital in the centre of the country would balance out development in the nation. Currently, Seoul is the social, cultural, political, and administrative capital of the country. All governmental institutions are concentrated in the city. This Seoul-centered development is encouraging more and more people to move from rural areas to the metropolitan area. According to the National Statistical Office (NSO), Seoul has a population density of 16,364/㎢. Compared to Busan (4,480/㎢), which ranks second in population density, while the province of Gangwon has 90/㎢, the lowest population density in the nation. With the majority of our population concentrated in Seoul, the transportation infrastructure has become highly developed and the capital has become the cultural center of the nation. In contrast, underpopulated areas have poor access to public transportation and other basics for a good quality of life. However, if governmental institutions move to Sejong City in Chungcheong-do province, the nation will see a more balanced development of the country.
|▲ The New Administrative Capital Construction Promotion Committee is holding its first meeting. (Photo from Naver News)|
The relocation to a new administrative capital will also solve our current real estate problems. Overinflated housing prices and real estate speculation are the most important problems facing Koreans today. The concentration of government agencies, infrastructure and companies in Seoul has led to overpopulation and high demand for housing in the capital and surrounding areas. The problem is excessive demand and limited land for construction. Therefore, while demand sustainably increases, so do the property prices. The soaring housing costs have created a serious economic development gap between the metropolitan area and the countryside. According to KB Kookmin Bank, the sale price of an apartment located in Gangnam-gu and Seocho-gu, the central region of important governmental agencies, averaged 64.35 million won per 3.3m² in 2020. And 87.3 percent of apartments in the area exceed 900 million won in market value. On the other hand, the real transaction price of apartments in other areas averaged 2 million won per 3.3m². Citizens wanting to move to the capital area are barred from entry due to unrealistically high prices. The unaffordability of the region serves to widen the gap between the rich and the poor and hampers economic development as most companies have their investments tied up in facility costs. In addition, real estate speculation widens the income gap and makes it difficult to make the best use of the land. In contrast, a new administrative city enables the development of both town and country. It can address the problem of skyrocketing land prices by reducing the concentration of demand from a single area in exchange for more diverse investment opportunities. Real estate developers, companies and the government will be forced to use the national territory more efficiently.
|▲ Differences in housing prices between metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. (Photo from KB)|
Finally, relocating the administrative capital to the centre of the country would enable us to recover quickly from any sort of national emergencies. Currently, the National Assembly, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are in Seoul. This means if Seoul were to collapse, due to war, an act of terrorism, or even a natural disaster, the entire country would suffer. Therefore, we need countermeasures to diversify our risks. In my opinion, the most efficient countermeasure is the construction of new administrative capital. Under this plan, the functions of the state would be distributed between two places, and if one collapses, the other can perform the functions of government. This gives us time to overcome any potential disasters and the opportunity to deal with the crisis more efficiently.
A new administrative capital situated in the centre of the country is a means to resolve fundamental problems through balanced development addressing the problems of skyrocketing land value, speculation, and overpopulation in metropolitan areas. It would also facilitate a quick recovery from a national crisis. Overall, a new capital will serve as an opportunity to improve our nation’s competitiveness by promoting more diverse progress and co-prosperity.