The Growth and Decline of Industrial Cities in Korea: Industrial Specialization, Globalizaiton of Production and Population Change

Authors: Yangmi Koo*, Department of Geography, Seoul National University
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: industrial city, industrial specialization, globalization of production, population change, South Korea
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 19
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study aims to explore the evolutionary path of the growth and decline of industrial cities in Korea. The Korean government has fostered export-led economic growth by promoting light industries in the 1960s, heavy-chemical industries from the 1970s, and high-technology industries after the 1990s. Industrial complexes and new planned industrial cities have supported the specialization of the target manufacturing industries. This rapid industrialization has had significant impact on the population distribution, physical landscape, and the spatial structure of Korea. Major industrial cities experienced rapid population growth as well as the development of the export industries. Both industrial growth and population settlement concentrated in the Capital area, while major industries developed mainly along the Seoul-to-Busan Axis. The population polarization between the Capital and the non-Capital areas has been expanding due to an outflow of young people from non-Capital area. In particular, increasing overseas investment and globalizing production process of Korean enterprises are affecting the decline of industrial cities and the decrease in population. Overall shrinking of the economy resulted from domestic and global issues also causes this trend. Some industrial cities are experiencing economic stagnation by local hub companies’ poor performance and transnational corporations’ disinvestment. In this study, the change in the number of enterprises and workers, and related population change will be analyzed in industrial cities specialized in a particular industry such as Geoje(shipbuilding), Gumi(electronics), and Gunsan(automobile). The impact of corporate restructuring such as downsizing with recession, production offshoring, and factory closure will be considered in this process.

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