Special Report

Special Report is an English digest of KRIHS research reports, published to provide information about Korea`s key urban and regional issues to interested scholars and policy makers across the world. It highlights the outstanding research studies completed by the research fellows of KRIHS.

Special Report (Vol. 38)

  • 2018-04-18
  • Lee Eunmi /

Special Report Vol. 38 (2017)



Urban Shrinkage in Korea and Related Policy Tasks


Chapter I. Introduction    

1. Research Background and Goals

2. Research Scope and Methods


Chapter II. Understanding Korea’s Shrinking Cities

1. Redefining Shrinking Cities

2. Typology of Korea’s Shrinking Cities

3. Characteristics of Korea’s Shrinking Cities

4. Conclusion


Chapter III. The Urban Shrinkage Mechanism in Korea

1. The Urban Shrinkage Mechanism Debate

2. Path Analysis on Urban Shrinkage Mechanism

3. Conclusion


Chapter IV. Policy Tasks for Korea’s Shrinking Cities

1. Right-Sizing Reducing City Size to Suit Population Shrinkage

2. Service Efficiency: Efficiently Supplying Public Services

3. Neighborhood Stabilization: Stabilizing Neighborhoods Threatened with Extinction


Chapter V. Conclusion & Discussion




      In many shrinking cities around the world, population loss has resulted in a shortage of tax revenue, while financial conditions have been exacerbated by the costs of maintaining oversupplies of housing and infrastructure. Having entered a situation of severe population decline, Korea’s provincial cities are not free from the shrinkage phenomenon. The purpose of this study was to attempt an empirical analysis of shrinkage status and mechanisms for Korean cities, using the resulting findings to identify policy tasks for future pursuit by shrinking cities.  

      The 20 shrinking cities selected for this study exhibit an aging trend and increase in the percentage of senior citizens living alone, increased multi-family housing vacancy rates, urban sprawl into peripheral regions, deficit spending on public facility management, and the collapse of communities in neighborhoods threatened with extinction. Urban shrinkage in Korea was also found to be the result of a complex range of factors, including job loss, low fertility, and suburbanization/sprawl. Through their mutual influences, these factors were found to result in deteriorating financial conditions.

       Based on these analysis findings, the study suggests three policy approaches to escape the vicious cycle of urban shrinkage: right-sizing, service efficiency, and neighborhood stabilization. The most crucial step toward achieving these is acknowledgement of the shrinkage phenomenon. Based on this understanding, consideration must be given to identifying ways of improving quality of life for remaining residents rather than to reckless efforts to increase city size.

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