Effects of Top-Down Balanced Development Strategies on Regional Balance: Evidence from Public Big Data in Korea

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The rapid economic growth of Korea was accompanied by the side effect of disproportionate growth between regions. The central government has implemented balanced development strategies by enacting the Special Act on Balanced National Development. For example, central administrative institutions were relocated to Sejong-si, which was built as the administrative capital. This study examines whether the top-down strategy promoted balanced growth between regions using public big data. We use various indicators to pay attention to not only quantitative growth, such as population size and economic growth, but also qualitative growth, such as life satisfaction. The results show that, despite the government’s efforts, the population was concentrated in the major metropolitan areas and the economic gap between regions did not narrow. While metropolitan areas achieved steady growth based on the preemption of spatial competitiveness, non-metropolitan areas did not take advantage of more investment from government. However, it shows a significant increase in job creation in Sejong-si, suggesting it is more efficient to move institutions in groups than to completely disperse public institutions in the balanced development strategy. In terms of the quality of life, Sejong-si had the lowest personal life satisfaction and local life satisfaction, indicating that the top-down strategy has failed to manage the quality of life. We propose that promoting a compact city with multiple functions in the non-metropolitan areas will help balance development. To achieve a better quality of life, centralized power should be transferred to local governments, and policies should be built based on communication with local residents. Innovative and sustainable policies that efficiently utilize the uniqueness and potential of the region are needed for balanced growth.

Yoo, Y.; Choi, S. Effects of Top-Down Balanced Development Strategies on Regional Balance: Evidence from Public Big Data in Korea. Sustainability 2022, 14, 16221.