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Global Urbanization Trends and Challenges Facing Mature Mid-Size Cities: The Case of Busan, South Korea

TitleGlobal Urbanization Trends and Challenges Facing Mature Mid-Size Cities: The Case of Busan, South Korea
Publication TypeWorking Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKim, J, Singham, S, In, SYoung, Bennon, M
KeywordsWorking Paper

Urbanization is a well-known phenomenon that has become an integral part of our modern ethos. The role of the top 600 cities and their prominence in the global economy is now at the center of contemporary dialogues.  With the rapid and highly concentrated growth, these 600 cities would undoubtedly face many difficult challenges in the foreseeable future. For the 440 cities in developing economies, the so-called Emerging 440, with the organic growth propelled by the inevitable rural to urban migration on their side, much attention has been given to these cities by international business and investment communities. This paper focused on the remaining 160 cities in more advanced economies, in particular the 155 mature mid-sized cities, where the challenges are more daunting as their need to tread a new path of growth becomes more imminent. Urban migration in most of these cities has already taken place. With the aging population and a significant decrease in birthrate, the demographics are also stacked against them. In considering the next generation growth potential of the mature mid-size cities, two specific urban-level reforms are proposed in this paper: first, an overhaul along the institutional and regulatory dimensions designed to reduce the existing barriers to further growth and, second, effective engagement of the private sector to enhance cities’ fiscal self-reliance, especially in the infrastructure area.  We use Busan, South Korea, as our case example for providing a meaningful representation of a mature mid-size city and for demonstrating the proposed two urban-level reforms.

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