January 14, 2022
SEOUL – Panregional cooperation is the key to balanced national development, President Moon Jae-in said Thursday, presiding over the nation’s first meeting for cooperation between central and regional governments.
The meeting, called “the second Cabinet meeting,” was held for the first time for top decision-makers of the central and local governments to deliberate on major policies related to regional autonomy and balanced development. It is the highest decision-making body dealing with local agendas by holding meetings once a quarter.
Moon said South Korea has established itself as an advanced country, but it has not been able to solve the problem of concentration in the Seoul metropolitan area.
“We need to focus our capabilities on revitalizing regions and the regional economy is the basis of the country’s economy,” He said, urging officials to actively discuss ways to recover regional consumption, including prompt support for owners of small businesses.
With the start of full-scale industrialization in the 1970s, South Korea saw a mass exodus of the population from provincial areas to the capital. Now, more than half of the nation’s population lives in Greater Seoul, which accounts for only 12 percent of the country by land. As a result, the Seoul metropolitan area suffers from overcrowding while other areas face demographic cliffs.
“The challenges of the time such as low birthrate and an aging population, the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and climate change can only be effectively responded to only when the central and local governments work together,” Moon said.
“Panregional cooperation is the key policy for balanced national development that will dramatically change the lives of residents,” said Moon. “We must succeed in panregional cooperation to prove that it is an effective alternative to balanced national development.”
In the meeting, officials decided to continue to develop support measures for three regions: Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang Province. They aim to launch a special local government in February this year and a development plan for the three regions is underway.
These three regions are at the center of Korea’s economy, culture, industry, transportation and trade after Greater Seoul. Their combined population is also second largest after Greater Seoul with about 8 million people. But recently, many young people have been leaving. Compared to 2018, the number of young people in these three cities had decreased by about 10 percent this year.
The government will also support the establishment of a promotion system and the discovery of cooperative projects for Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province in another case of panregional cooperation, officials said.
Cheong Wa Dae said the meeting would be operated with an emphasis on three aspects under the vision of solidarity and cooperation in which the central-local regions coexist: It plans to operate the meeting as the nation’s top decision-making body on matters related to local governments; it decided to operate the meeting to provide a venue for communication, cooperation and public debate between the central and local regions; and it aims to systematically and efficiently manage the results of the meeting.