Regional Development

OECD Urban Policy Reviews: Korea


Key Facts | Key Policy issues | Recommendations

Table of contents | How to obtain this book

OECD Territorial Reviews: Venice, Italy 2010 | OECD Free preview | Powered by Keepeek Digital Asset Management Solution

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Pages 179


The National Urban Policy Review of Korea assesses Korea’s approach to sustainable urban development as expressed in its recent urban policy reform and national green growth agenda. The government has responded to the economic, environmental and social challenges that have resulted from Korea’s rapid urbanisation process with, on the one hand, urban policy reform based on qualitative urban management and urban competitiveness and, on the other hand, the adoption of a National Strategy for Green Growth that emphasises the role of cities in achieving stronger environmental and economic outcomes. The Review proposes a series of recommendations designed to advance Korea’s sustainable urban policy approach, which include (i) developing a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach to urban development that is tailored to the different needs of urban areas, (ii) closing the gaps between expected and actual outcomes in urban planning, (iii) maximising economic efficiency in the building and transportation sectors and (iv) improving policy co-ordination across public agencies.


Key facts

  • Korea is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Urban areas have been key drivers of economic growth, with seven metropolitan cities accounting for 46.1% of national population and producing 46.2% of national GDP in 2009.
  • Korea’s urbanisation rate exploded from 28% in 1960 to 83% in 2010. Rapid urbanisation has nevertheless resulted in unbalanced patterns and regional disparities in economic performance, dominated by the Seoul Capital Area. The Capital Area accounted for 48.7% of Korea’s GDP, 49% of its population, 46.8% of its firms and 49.6% of all jobs in 2009.
  • Korea’s rapid growth, highly urbanised spatial form and traditionally energy-intensive economic model have put growing pressure on the environment, leading to increased resource consumption and pollution levels and the doubling of GHG emissions between 1990 and 2005 – the highest growth rate in the OECD area.
  • Korea is also confronting an ageing population and increasing immigration, which will put new pressures on public resources and urban services and require public policies at all levels to adapt to shifting demographics.
  • Urban policy has undergone several waves of reform since the 1960s to adapt to changing conditions and priorities, and will need to continue to evolve to meet expected socio-economic and environmental challenges.


Key policy issues

  • How can national urban policy achieve greater coherence, increased co-operation among local governments and synergy effects with economic development policy?
  • What urban policies can help prepare for an ageing population and increasingly ethno-culturally diverse population?
  • How can urban forecasting be improved and urban policymaking and implementation be better monitored?
  • What strategies can strengthen the implementation of the National Strategy for Green Growth in urban areas to deliver greater economic and environmental impacts?


  • Facilitate collaboration among national ministries to integrate urban and economic development planning with a clear national vision for urban development. Enhance policy co-ordination among lower levels of government through a series of financial and institutional incentives.
  • Tailor urban policy to the different needs of cities and metropolitan areas by enhancing the competitiveness of large cities through improved innovation capacity, regenerating the economic functions of lagging cities/districts, and developing a specific urban strategy for Seoul.
  • Improve the quality of senior housing, adopt more flexible zoning and land use policies, and design public spaces and services to accommodate an ageing and more ethno-culturally diverse population.
  • Increase the use of advanced urban modelling and evaluation methods to inform policymaking and improve long-term strategic decision-making.
  • Strengthen the urban dimension of the National Strategy for Green Growth with i) a policy mix of market-based and nonmarket-based instruments to green the urban building and transportation sectors and ii) a range of multi-level governance tools that aim to establish clear market signals, diversify funding sources, and develop measuring and monitoring tools at the local level.



Table of contents

Assessment and Recommendations

Chapter 1. Trends and Challenges in Korea’s Urban Structure

This chapter examines urbanisation trends and addresses the issues and main challenges facing urban areas in Korea. It considers different definitions of urban areas in Korea and applies a methodology to identify groups of urban areas based on their functionality, rather than on administrative boundaries. An analysis of economic performance trends in urban areas reveals the leading economic role of large cities and medium-sized cities. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the challenges facing Korean urban policy makers in the years ahead, including an ageing population and shrinking labour force, unprecedented resource consumption, environmental pressures and climate change.

Chapter 2. National Policies for Urban Development in Korea

This chapter analyses Korean urban policy and provides recommendations to address urban policy challenges. The chapter begins with a brief examination of the trajectory of urban policy in Korea, which shifted from a polarised growth pole strategy in the 1960s into promoting strategies emphasising qualitative urban management and urban competitiveness. Four policy priorities are recommendations for strengthening the co-ordination and coherence of Korean urban policy: i) address the current policy fragmentation across ministries and among local governments through a comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach to urban development and increased co-operation among sub-national administrations; ii) adapt urban policy to future demographic trends, such as ageing and an increasing immigrant population; iii) advance a more tailored urban policy to address the different needs of Korean cities; and iv) close the gaps between expected and actual outcomes in urban planning, through more widespread use of urban modelling and greater ex post evaluation and monitoring.

Chapter 3. The Korean Green Growth Strategy and its Implementation in Urban Areas

This chapter focuses on the contributions of sub-national governments to Korea’s National Strategy for Green Growth and identifies the main challenges for its effective implementation at the local level. The first section examines the role of urban areas in advancing the green growth agenda in Korea. The second section addresses key challenges to the implementation of green growth policies at the urban scale and proposes a series of recommendations for strengthening implementation, with a focus on policy instruments to green the urban transportation and building sectors and a set of governance challenges to advancing an urban green growth agenda.


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