Globalization, urban transformation and livability
MetadataShow full item record
Economic globalization in the 1980s ad 1990s gave birth to a new type of city, called a 'global city', which is assumed to perform critical functions to facilitate the contemporary global economy and which share the same characteristics. Cities, however, have different histories, economies, polities and demographies and these different local conditions do no lend themselves to the construction of a general model a global city even though they have characteristics. First, I explore the historical path of urban development in Seoul since the 1960s. Seoul is very unique in that its economic growth was mainly planned and implemented by the authoritarian Korean national government while civil and political freedom of citizens to participate the decision making process were strongly suppressed. However, the forces of globalization from the 1980s significantly altered the economic and political context in which the Korean state had successful operated in the previous decades. The role of state in regulating and planning the market was significantly weakened as well as the national political system became democratized and decentralized from the 1980s. These changes caused by the forces of globalization have made significant impacts on the organization of urban development in Seoul. Secondly, thus, I examine the social and political impacts of the globalization on the lives of the inhabitants in Seoul and I found that Seoul’s becoming a global city is closely related to the growing gap in the condition of living between the poor and the rich in Seoul. It is mainly caused by the restructuring of the urban labor market toward producer service sector orientation away from manufacturing sector. The expansion of the producer service sector has produced new trends in Seoul’s urban labor market: professionalization of regularly employed people at the top and increasing informal and low-skilled laborers and/or illegal foreign workers at the bottom. Moreover, it is found that increasing social inequality has its spatial consequence: a growing residential segregation. In Seoul, the southeast sub-region has emerged as an exclusive residential area for high-income professionals with much better living conditions, including spacious houses, easier access to heath-care facilities, more green space and educational institutions. The most important cause of the spatial concentration of professionals in this region is the concentration of the producer service sector jobs there. Yet, high price for housing in this area reinforces the clustering of the rich in the area and shuns lower-income people from moving into the area. However, the role of the national government cannot be under-estimated because the government urban policies produced the new development of residential and commercial development in the area in the 1980s. However, it is argued an opportunity to mediate the degrading economic living conditions for citizens in a global city has been created by the same force of globalization, yet in a different social system: urban politics. With particular emphasis on political democratization and decentralization under the current global economic system, it became possible for citizens to be directly involved in the public-policy making process. In theory, this situation implies that citizens are now empowered to create public policies that would minimize the negative consequences of economic globalization on their daily lives. My case study on Cheonggye Stream Restoration Project shows the opportunities and challenges of new urban political context in Seoul. The analysis of the Cheonggye Restoration Project suggests that more room has been created in the course of policy planning and the policy-making process, caused mainly by global political change toward direct democracy. However, the project also suggests that these changes at an institutional level did not lead to changes at an operational level, failing to produce an outcome that really reflects the demands of the actors.