Sejong City offers chance to realise urban dream: Lee

Sejong City offers chance to realise urban dream: Lee
This general view shows a residential area in Sejong City, 120 kms south of Seoul, on July 2, 2012. South Korea inaugurated a mini-capital to house much of the nation's government, ending a decade of wrangling over a project seen by critics as driven by politics.

The controversial Sejong City is neither a needless extension of Seoul nor a dispersion of its administrative functions, but rather a golden opportunity to strategically create an ideal future-oriented city, according to the chief conductor of the project.

Lee Choong-jae is the chairman of the Multifunctional Administrative City Construction Agency, the special organisation in charge of mapping out the development of the new Sejong government complex and its surrounding area.

"Sejong City, with seven multi-functions including administration, education and business, will become a whole new city that may stand equal to Seoul in the near future," Lee told The Korea Herald in an interview.

"Seoul doesn't have much room for further growth considering its density. For further growth of the nation, we need another city, which may (also) diversify our colour in the global community."

Sejong should, therefore, not be regarded as a far-off subordinate city to Seoul but as a powerful new player on the chessboard, while Seoul continues its own evolution as the capital city, he continued.

This is why it is important that the new city be located away from Seoul and the metropolitan area, despite some people's complaints, he explained.

"Korea has been heavily reliant on its capital area, while its provincial cities have long remained disconnected from one another," the official said.

Seeking balanced development of land, the government relocated some of its administrative functions to Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, in the 1980s, and moved some of its public organisations to more distant provinces in the 1970s.

"But such processes were mere geographical dispersion, as there was no junction to connect the remote departments and institutions," Lee said.

"Once Sejong administrative city turns out as planned, all the surrounding regions will find a connection, not only with Sejong but with all the rest of the country."

Many think of Sejong as an out-of-nowhere project but, in fact, the area has long been prepared to house a large-scale multifunctional city, the city planner also claimed.

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