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The Peninsula

Lawmakers Make an Economic Argument for Relocating the National Assembly

Published December 22, 2020
Author: Korea View
Category: South Korea

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • The ruling Democratic Party announced a phased plan to relocate the National Assembly to the administrative capital of Sejong City.
  • Under the proposed plan, the current site of the legislature would be transformed into a “fourth industrial revolution” science and startup cluster.
  • The ruling party presented this plan as part of a broader vision to bolster Seoul’s position as a global business hub.

Implications: The ruling party’s framing of the National Assembly’s relocation as an industrial policy exemplifies the political establishment’s use of economic arguments to advance political objectives. In addition to making physical space in Seoul for more research and entrepreneurship, lawmakers underscored that the relocation plan includes the creation of a special metropolitan region of smaller cities in the region around the new administrative capital. Proponents emphasized that this would boost employment and growth more evenly throughout the country. While claims of economic gains from the relocation were widely circulated, the advantage of moving vital state apparatuses further away from the demilitarized zone was not highlighted.

Context: The relocation of the administrative capital began in 2012 when 12 out of 16 government ministries moved to Sejong City. In addition to moving some public institutions to Sejong City, the government also encouraged public sector assets to operate outside of Seoul. Most notably, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power company moved their headquarters to the southeastern city of Gyeongju. Policymakers claimed that the devolution of Seoul would not only bolster growth in the regions where these institutions resettled but also help address the housing crisis in Seoul.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo and Chris Lee.

Photo from the Republic of Korea’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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