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All Highways Lead to the City: The Rural-Urban Hierarchy and the Highways in 1970s South Korea

  • Journal of Regional Studies and Development
  • Abbr : JRSD
  • 2020, 29(1), pp.111-141
  • DOI : 10.22739/ipaid.2020.29.1.111
  • Publisher : Institute for Poverty Alleviation and International Development: IPAID
  • Research Area : Social Science > Area Studies > Regional Studies in general > Comparative / Statistical Regional Studies
  • Received : October 16, 2019
  • Accepted : March 1, 2020
  • Published : April 30, 2020

SUNGJO KIM 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The highways being constructed in 1970s South Korea appeared to be completing the ‘homogenization of space’ between the city and the countryside. Newly constructed village roads, which allowed trucks and farm machines to work, were connected to the Seoul-Pusan Highway completed in 1970 and other highways constructed continuously during the 1970s. Through the network of village roads, secondary roads (local roads), primary roads (national freeway), and the highways, rural villages established the foundation for a network of connections to each other and ultimately to the cities. The highway was the space of movement, but it actually revealed the hierarchical views on the relationship between the countryside and the city, satisfying the demands of manufacturing capital and industrial cities. To sustain the economic growth driven by rapid industrialization, it was crucial to provide cheap agri-products to low-paid laborers living in large industrial cities. The highway narrowed the distance between urban consumers and rural producers, and motivated farmers to diversify farm produce to meet the demands of the urban market, saving distribution costs through the use of faster transportation system. Farmers began to pay more attention to the real-time price of rice and other products in the Seoul markets. Yet, farmers still suffered from relatively low commodity prices vis-à-vis manufactured goods, and often did not meet even the cost of production. The expanded urban market was merely the place where the highways delivered the cheap farm products and low-wage workers needed to fuel the growth and meet the needs of cities and manufacturing capital.

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