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Development Overview
Territorial Development Environment

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Environment

Restrictions on land use

The government places some restrictions on the use of land for various reasons, for example to promote orderly territorial development, protect the environment, limit the population concentration in the cities, and stabilize real estate prices. Restrictions have taken various forms in Korea. Among them are the zoning system and greenbelts.

All plots of land in Korea are subject to the zoning system, which has provided clear and consistent guidelines for their use. But the zoning system has also received many criticisms. First of all, it cannot accommodate the diversity of economic and social activities because it classifies all plots of land into a small number of zone-types and applies a uniform regulation to them. This inflexibility becomes particularly disruptive as the government earmarks specific plots of land for specific purposes well in advance of their development. In addition, the complicated regulations imposed on each type stifle the innovative use of land by the private sector. Recently, efforts are being made to increase the flexibility of the system, but it is still too soon to judge their success.

Another important restriction on land use was imposed by the greenbelt system introduced in 1971. As urbanization occurred rapidly during the 1960s, the cities began to expand in a disorderly fashion. In order to preserve the natural environment around them and to secure a healthy living environment for urban citizens, the Urban Planning Act was enacted, which designated Seoul, five metropolitan cities, 28 urban districts (si ) and 36 rural districts (gun ) as greenbelts between 1971 and 1977. Initially, greenbelts were to cover 5,397 km2 (5.4 percent of the country) but the current area is 3,980 km2 because of the adjustment made in 1998.

The greenbelt system has made a great contribution to protecting the environment and provided places for city dwellers to enjoy nature. At the same time, it has been criticized for infringing on the property rights of owners, hindering the efficient use of land, and hampering the competitiveness of large cities. An appropriate balance is needed between the conflicting roles of the greenbelts.

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

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