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Overview of Korea’s development experience

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Development Overview
Territorial Development Transport/Logistics

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Transport/Logistics

Expansion of transportation networks

At the time of liberation in 1945, it took two to three days to travel from Seoul to the outlying reaches of the country. Sixty years later, the same journey now takes less than half a day thanks to the development of modern transportation and logistics systems. Most households now have their own cars and the country has an extensive network of expressways.

The number of cars has increased rapidly from around 7,000 in 1945 to 14,703 in 1948 and 16.4 million by 2007, with the car ownership ratio going from 2,881 people per car to 2.9 people per car as incomes rose and road conditions improved.

The amount of roads has grown 4.3-fold from 24,031 km in 1945 to 103,019 km by 2008. The percentage of paved roads has jumped from 0.03 percent to 98 percent in the same period. The opening of the Seoul-Incheon Expressway (1968) and the Seoul-Busan Expressway (1970) signaled the start of the expressway era. At present, the 3,368 km-long expressway network forms the transport arteries of the country.

In 1945, railroads were the most crucial means of transportation of both people and cargo. Prior to Korea’s division, the total distance of railroads came to 6,362 km. After the partition, the total length of railroads in South Korea stood at 2,642 km. It has modestly increased since then by 28.7 percent to 3,399 km. In 1975, the opening of the Seoul Station-Cheongryangri subway line in Seoul ushered in the era of mass transit systems. In 2002, the high-speed KTX train started service between Seoul and Busan. The 300 km/hr train covers the Seoul-Busan route in less than 3 hours.

As for the maritime industry, the ship Busan that returned from Qingdao, China on August 15, 1945, the day the country was liberated from colonial rule, was the only ocean-going vessel in the country at that time. In the early 1960s, the government pushed for the development of the maritime industry. By 2007, the total tonnage of the country’s ocean-going ships was 18 million tons.


Figure 5-4. Infrastructure development (1960-2008)


As for ports, Busan Port became the country’s first to be equipped with a container wharf in 1978. It continued to develop until becoming the world’s third largest port in terms of cargo handling capacity by 2000. Recently, however, newly developed Chinese ports have pushed it back into the fifth place.

Commercial aviation began in the colonial period. In 1946, Korean National Airlines (KNA) was established and it started domestic flights in 1948. In 1948, Northwest Orient, the U.S. carrier, became the first airline to offer international flights from the country. In 1962, Korean Air took over bankrupt KNA and was the country’s only commercial airline for 26 years. In 1988, Asiana Airlines entered the market. Since 2005, several small discount airlines have started operations. Korean airlines now rank tenth in the world in terms of the number of passengers and the volume of cargo they transport.

In 1958, Gimpo International Airport became the country’s main airport, replacing one in Yeouido in the middle of Seoul that had served that role since the colonial period. With the opening of Incheon International Airport in 2001, Gimpo Airport now mainly serves domestic flights. Since its opening, Incheon International Airport has joined the ranks of the world’s leading airports, ranking second in terms of the volume of international cargo handled and tenth in terms of international passenger traffic.

Railroads played a central role in cargo transportation in the early years of independence. With the construction of five cargo depots, including those in Gunpo and Euiwang, in the 1990s, the country’s logistics sector underwent drastic changes. In the 2000s, the creation of a multi-modal sea and air transportation system offers complete services from origin to destination.

In the 1960s, the convenience and route flexibility offered by buses caused the disappearance of streetcars from the streets of Seoul. Since 1974, subways, along with buses, taxis and private cars, have played a significant role in transportation in the large cities. Recently, efforts have been made to improve sidewalks and bike paths as part of the “Low Carbon and Green Growth” campaign.

Source : SaKong, Il and Koh, Youngsun, 2010. The Korean Economy Six Decades of Growth and Development. Seoul: Korea Development Institute.

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