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. 37)

  • 2017-10-13
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Special Report Vol. 37 (2017)

Development Cooperation Between South Korea and the Latin America for Urban Management

Chapter I. Introduction    

1. Background and Necessity of Research

2. Objective

3. Scope and Methodology

4. Research Flow

Chapter II. Characteristics of Urbanization in LAC Countries 

1. General Characteristics of Urbanization in LAC Countries

2. Analysis of Urban Conditions in Major LAC Countries

Chapter III. Analysis of Key Urban Problems in Priority Partner Countries   

1. Mexico 

2. Colombia

3. Paraguay

4. Key Causes of Urban Problems

Chapter IV. Analysis of Urban Problems in Priority Partner Countries 

1. Direction for Korea and LAC Countries to Address Urban Problems 

2. Key Measures of Cooperation

3. Cooperation Tasks

Chapter V. Conclusion



          In the 20th century, Latin America and the Caribbean Region (LAC) experienced rapid urbanization that raised the region’s urbanization rate to nearly 80%, about twice that of Asia and Africa. A combined 6.8 million people in LAC migrated from rural to urban areas every year, and this trend boosted the number of not only megacities but also small and mid-size cities in the region. Such rapid urbanization caused diverse urban challenges such as the growth of slums, heavy traffic congestion, housing shortage, and low quality of infrastructure. Many LAC countries, however, lacked adequate regulatory frameworks and planning systems to effectively respond to urban problems caused by the rapid urbanization.


          Korea in the 1970s and 1980s experienced fast and sustained economic growth, urbanization, and most of the urban problems many developing countries now face in their development stage. Hence many developing countries are greatly interested in learning from Korea’s development model. Korea has a crucial task is to share Korea’s knowhow to contribute to international development.


          The overall objective of this study is to analyze the characteristics and challenges of urbanization in LAC countries and propose promising areas and measures in development cooperation between Korea and LAC countries. Most LAC countries have shown high urbanization rates and high urban primacy, but several of them have failed to achieve economic growth proportional to their high urbanization rates.


          Chapter II diagnoses the main urban issues that 17 LAC countries are facing by using 12 indicators in four areas: residential environment, inclusive development, transportation and infrastructure, and environmental sustainability. The analysis of the indicators and urbanization rates of 17 LAC countries have led to the identification of four types of countries and three priority partner countries: Colombia, Mexico, and Paraguay.


          Chapter III analyzes the urbanization trends and the main urban challenges of the three priority partner countries according to the following four categories: i) residential environment : qualitative housing deficit and informal housing; ii) inclusive development: regional inequality, income disparity, and development gap between urban and rural areas; iii) transportation and infrastructure: low quality of public transit systems in megacity regions and heavy traffic congestion; and iv) environmental sustainability: air and water pollution, disaster adaptation and mitigation, and urban sprawl. The three main causes of urban challenges are also identified: the lack of adequate integrated planning, legal and regulatory framework, and financial resources.


          Chapter IV presents strategic objectives and areas and implementation strategies for cooperation between Korea and each of the three target LAC countries. Mexico urgently needs to set up an integrated public transport system and a transit system for metropolitan areas and proper governance to manage both systems. Also critical is the formulation and updating of land use planning to efficiently manage urban sprawl in megacities. Colombia must facilitate public financing and private investment to promote projects for urban transportation infrastructure, and Korea’s extensive experience in this sector can serve as a good precedent. Improvement of informal housing settlements in urban areas and low-income housing should be a strategic area of collaboration. Paraguay should devise a master plan and legal and regulatory framework to manage the Asuncion metropolitan area and prevent further urban sprawl, as well as a master plan for flood-prone areas in Asuncion to improve housing and prevent damages from natural disasters.


          To facilitate deeper development cooperation between Korea and LAC countries, understanding the three LAC countries conditions and their main challenges is vital, in addition to developing a cooperative agenda tailored for each nation. Another productive approach would be to develop tripartite cooperation among Korea, a middle income LAC country, and a low-income LAC nation to transmit knowledge more efficiently.


          This research took a great leap from taking an usual one-sided transfer of Korean experiences to drawing viable cooperation projects by employing partner countries’ context. This research also proposed a diagnostic assessment tool for analysis on urban conditions which also could be applied to research for other countries. Through this study, it created the data for indicators diagnosing urban conditions and for urban challenges in three LAC countries. Once the supplements are given to upgrade the details of the data, it is recommended to conduct even deeper analysis on each specific topic to initiate more viable international cooperation projects.

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