|Surface area (sq km)||100266||2014|
|Population (proj., 000)||50504||2016|
|Pop. density (per sq km)||519.4||2016|
|Capital city pop. (000)||9774||2015||Refers to Seoul Special City.|
|Population growth rate (average annual %)||0.5||2010-2015|
|Urban population growth rate (average annual %)||0.7||2010-2015|
|CO2 emission estimates (000 tons/tons per capita)||592499/11.9||2013|
|Population using improved drinking water sources (urban/rural, %)||99.7/...||2015|
|Population using improved sanitation facilities (urban/rural, %)||100.0/100.0||2015|
Managing rapid urbanization
For improvement of the quality of human life and sustainable human settlements, we must cope with rapidly increasing populations of specific cities and the aggravating regional inequality due to excessive concentration of population in certain regions. South Korea has undergone urbanization in the process of industrialization more quickly than most other cities in the world. In particular, it has been a major issue for national land and urban policies to cope with the serious concentration of population in the capital area (Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggido). There are two parts of policies to restrict the concentration of population in the capital area: one is for managing rapid urbanization and the other is for distribution.
The urban population, which accounted for 39.1% of the total population of South Korea in 1960 started to increase rapidly from the 1960s when industrialization began in earnest and reached 88.3% in 2000. The increase of urban population ratio slowed down since 2000 and it became 91.0% as of 2012. Along with general urbanization, the concentration of population in the capital area has been an important policy issue about population change as well. The percentage of population in the capital area in 1995 was 45.3% of the national population, and by 2013, it increased to 49.6%, accounting for a half of total population concentrated in the capital area.
In order to prevent unplanned urban sprawl and natural environment destruction around cities, and secure space in preparation for future urban development, the Korean Government designated development restriction areas in the outskirts of 14 cities for 5.4% of national land eight times starting from Seoul in 1971. Since then, some development restriction areas have been released including seven small- and medium-sized cities that have relatively less pressure of urban sprawl and some clustered settlements which were designated irrationally. In 2000, the ACT ON SPECIAL MEASURES FOR DESIGNATION AND MANAGEMENT OF DEVELOPMENT RESTRICTION ZONES was enacted for rational management of the remaining development restriction areas.
Furthermore, capital area management policies promoted win-win development of every region across the nation with their own competitive edges. To distribute the population and industries from the capital area to other regions, the restriction of manufacturing industry (factories), which was a major source of job creation in the capital, area and the restriction of the establishment and extension of higher educational institutions have been used as key policy tools. In addition, over- population charges, regulation on total number of factories and universities, and the restriction of new industrial complexes have been applied as well.
For the balanced development of all regions, the movement of central administrative agencies and public organizations, which were concentrated in the capital area to other local areas, has been actively carried out. When the three steps of movement to the Multifunctional Administrative City Sejong are completed, over 13,000 people of 37 agencies will work in Sejong Government Buildings. Furthermore, regional development policies such as the movement of public organizations from the capital area and the construction of 10 Innovation Cities in 11 other metropolitan cities and provinces have been carried out. In 2012, the plan for moving 149 public organizations from the capital area to other local areas was confirmed.
With the policies to manage rapid urbanization and distribute concentrated population and functions, the urbanization and the population concentration in the capital area reached a stable stage from 2000, and the basic urban environment became settled as well. As the urbanization level is already high in South Korea, the focus of urban and regional policies is changing from the restriction of urbanization to urban growth management and characteristic regional development.
Based on the awareness of this problem, the Korean Government has been pushing the Local Happiness Living Zone policy for the focus change from the present physical regulations and distribution policies to the development of regions with distinct characteristics. The Local Happiness Living Zone is a concept for connecting villages, farming and fishing village centers, and cities with autonomous agreements among local governments. The goal of this policy is to make everyday living spaces more convenient everywhere across the country that meet the needs for basic infrastructure, jobs, education, culture, and welfare services.
Urban housing indicators
People living in slums (%)
Urban population with access to adequate housing (%)
Basic services and infrastructure
Urban population with access to safe drinking water (%)
Urban population with access to adequate sanitation (%)
Urban population with access to regular waste collection (%)
Urban population with access to clean domestic energy (%)
Level of effective decentralization
Share of both income and expenditure allocated to local governments from the national budget (%)
Share of local authorities’ expenditure financed from local revenue (%)
Indicators for urban policies, legislation and economy
Local authorities having implemented urban policies supportive of local economic development and creation of decent jobs and livelihoods (%)
Local authorities having adopted or implemented urban safety and security policies /strategies (%)
Local authorities having implemented plans and designs that are inclusive and respond to urban population growth adequately (%)
Share of national gross domestic product (GDP) that is produced in urban areas