Urban Megaprojects: A Worldwide View
New Town Developments in Korea: Then and Now
New towns deserve renewed attention as today's urban megaprojects in the developing world. They are increasingly built amid governments’ attempts to connect their rapidly growing metropolises to the global economy and to promote them as world cities. This chapter revisits Korea's Bundang and Ilsan new town projects on the outskirts of Seoul. Their fast and lucrative development outcomes established an ill-founded expectation of Korea's new towns being profitable projects and even inspired emulation by other developing countries. To comprehend why the two city-scale new towns differed from those in the West, which often faced difficulties of long timeframe, financial risks, and uncertain outcomes, the chapter examines both their development causes and processes, considering Korea's political, economic, and housing situations of the late 1980s. Rather than long-term planning goals, Bundang and Ilsan served short-term political motives of Korea's first democratic regime, which saw in them a quick fix for some of its political and economic challenges. This determination bore fruit – but with two important prerequisites: (1) Korea's institutional order, marked by state involvement and control over housing development; and (2) Seoul's unique housing market conditions at the time, especially for new apartment units. Planners and policymakers, whether in Korea or elsewhere, should understand the major contributors to Bundang and Ilsan's success before attempting to replicate an experience of fast and profitable development that may no longer be attainable.
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