Tokyo and Seoul represent the world’s most populous metropolitan areas. In 2016, the greater Tokyo metropolitan area had an estimated population of more than 36 million, while the population of Seoul metropolitan region (SMR) was 25.6 million [World Population Review, 2017]. Both cities have high population densities, feature among the world’s affluent urban areas and figure prominently on the global city hierarchy. Tokyo tends to be ranked among the very top global power cities based on its ability to attract global investment and human resource. Seoul also features as a leading global city with strengths in information technology. Situated within the same geographic region, Tokyo and Seoul also share the distinction of being recognized as capitals of East Asia’s only two Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries with a high per capita gross domestic product (GDP).
While both cities compete as rivals in the global economy and seek to establish higher rankings in the global city hierarchy, the two cities share many aspects of history and culture and have followed similar trajectories of urbanization. For example, Tokyo became the first Asian country to host the Olympics games in 1964, showcasing and announcing its attainment of economic development. Seoul, similarly, became the second Asian city to host the Olympics games in 1988.
The two cities resemble each other more than other cities sharing similar levels of economic development and global city status. The extent of their inherent differences in comparison to the other top order global cities, mostly from Western developed countries, distinguishes these two East Asian major global cities from the rest. This fact has perhaps prompted those seeking to challenge the global or world city hypothesis (as promoted by Sassen and Friedmann 1986) to refer to Tokyo and Seoul as case studies.
In this paper, we describe within each of these cities the competition between city and the state government. We seek to explain how global cities situated within strong developmental nation-states respond to demands for local developments and global challenges to remain relevant in the global economy. We highlight tensions between city government’s priorities as competitors in the global economy and as national capitals by studying the relations between global city governments and central government agencies representing the developmental nation-state. In doing so, we seek to investigate whether global cities within developmental state tend to become ‘disembedded’ from their national context as they seek to integrate with the global economy.
This paper seeks to address the above questions through a broad overview of urban developments occurring in the two cities over the past few decades. It begins with a description of the changing patterns of population movements in Tokyo and SMR, respectively. For Tokyo, we focus on the repopulation of the central Tokyo mainly through two major urban development projects, the Tokyo waterfront development at Odaiba and the OMY “OMY” is an abbreviation for three districts within the Tokyo’s CBD: Otemachi, Marunouchi and Yurakucho.
“OMY” is an abbreviation for three districts within the Tokyo’s CBD: Otemachi, Marunouchi and Yurakucho.
Around late 1980s, as the globalization of the economy firmed up, the Global City theory (Saskia Sassen) and World City paradigm (John Friedmann) were introduced. The global/world city theory continues to remain influential to date, judged by the plethora of global city ranking indices that are regularly updated and published. Sassen referred to Tokyo as one of the three leading examples of a Global city, linking it to New York and London, i.e. cities that underwent “massive and parallel changes in their economic base, spatial organization, and social structure” (1991, p.4).
Friedmann asserted the usefulness of the world city paradigm because it could capture the influences of a wide range of factors related to economy, society and culture of the city, including city building processes “into a single meta-narrative” (1995, p. 43). Hill and Kim  noted that Sassen and Friedmann, through global or world city paradigm, assumed that a single global system was being superimposed on nation-states producing “a world city system”. This implied that national institutions, politics and culture that characterize nation-states would become less important in the shaping of the cities, as global forces would transform the economic base, spatial organization and social structure of world’s major cities [Hill and Kim, 2000]. Jacobs  described the contention of world/global city theorists, including Friedmann and Sassen, that cross-border flows in capital weaken the authority of nation-states such that multinational corporations (MNCs) are freed from state constraints. Consequently, “MNCs have re-organized human settlements to best achieve their corporate objectives, and in the process, disembedded cities from their national boundaries” (p.87).
Interest in studies on ranking world/global cities has been sustained over the years, focusing on the idea of “control and command centers” as a key feature to explain the role of top-ranking global/world cities within the globalized economy. These studies seek to assess “the quantity of revenue generated in cities by firms headquartered there”, interpreting it as “an indication of the importance of a city as an economic power; the corporate concentration within a city to wield power in a dynamic world economy” [Taylor and Csomós, 2012, pp. 408–409].
Globalization and the rise of global cities have seen the transfer of some aspects of governance from the nation-state or central government agencies to the level of city government. This decentralization of governance functions is justified in a number of ways. For example, in the context of Hong Kong, Shen  concluded that solely ensuring profit margins of firms and businesses operating in the city cannot enhance urban competitiveness; the scope has to be widened to cover various aspects of quality of life. This puts city governments or local governments in a much stronger position over central government agencies in terms of decision making regarding urban planning and development as being closer to the local community; they can deal effectively with the matters relating to the quality of built environment and social concerns. Decentralization also provides sufficient autonomy for local or city governments to enable them to command required authority and flexibility to deal with powerful potential partners such as MNCs as well as local communities and engage in public private partnership (PPP) initiatives.
This phenomenon of decentralization is also referred to as rescaling. Referring to observations by Dunning  and Macleod and Goodwin  suggesting the decline of the role of the nation-state and a corresponding rise in that of local state or urban governments, Shen maintained:
the nation-state has rescaled much of its authority to the local and regional level such as cities to take full advantage of globalization’s benefits at the scales where the process is most active.
the nation-state has rescaled much of its authority to the local and regional level such as cities to take full advantage of globalization’s benefits at the scales where the process is most active.
Another trend reported in the literature suggests that the globalization-inspired urban restructuring has prompted a transition from a welfare state to an economic-developmental state. Brenner  reported that such transition processes in Western developed economies are being led by local states (or urban governments) as the main actors. The economic-developmental state role assumed by city governments can be further justified in the face of global economic crises. Shen reported on such a case in Hong Kong, observing that the government’s approach to urban governance before the Asian economic meltdown of 1997 was one characterized by “laissez-faire non-intervention policy” with no direct market intervention by the local government (p. 32). Following the 1997 Asian economic meltdown and other crises, a perceptible change occurred. The local state resorted to “aggressive” intervention “different from the non-intervention policy before”, initiating measures to enhance urban competitiveness along with promoting sustainable development along social, economic and environmental dimensions (pp. 32–33).
Hill  suggested that rather than being influenced predominantly by a top–down global city hierarchy, cities operate within nested hierarchies. Each city, thus, participates at different levels within its “global niche, regional formation, national development model, and local historical context”. Hill maintained that while cities bound “neighbourhoods, households, families, the individual”, they are also “bounded by entities with wider sweep: sub-national regions, nation-states, transnational regions, and the world” (pp.374–375).
In their criticism of Sassen’s  theory about the creation of “a single global system”, Hill and Kim  referred to Tokyo and Seoul to point out fundamental differences that continue to persist among global cities in different geographic zones. They maintained that Tokyo, “the world’s largest urban agglomeration, departs from the world city paradigm on most salient dimensions. Seoul, center of east Asia’s second OECD member and the region’s second-largest metropolis, exhibits the same anomaly” [Hill and Kim, 2000, p. 2168]. It should be noted that Friedmann (1986) himself did “express reservations about the nature of Tokyo’s fit” with other first tier world cities (Waley 2007, p. 1465).
Much of the similarity between these two global cities and the dissimilarity of the two with the rest are explained by the fact that Japan and Korea were latecomers to industrialization. They took up exceptional urbanization and developmental measures to catch up with those on the ‘western development path’ distinguishing themselves from those non-western nations that were held back due to missing out on industrialization, being colonized or opting for non-capitalist ideology [Dutt et al., 1994]. This catching up was possible as it was mainly driven by adopting a ‘developmental state’ approach. A strong relationship based on reciprocity between state policies and private enterprise was institutionalized to facilitate and direct industrialization as part of nation building [Hill and Woo, 2000]. Of course, this ideology is also shared by the two nations largely because of their cultural similarities. Hill and Kim  emphasized that both Tokyo and Seoul economies are not ‘market-centred and bourgeois’ as is the case for Western cities like New York; they are, instead, ‘state-centred and political bureaucratic’.
Chalmers Johnson coined the term ‘developmental state’ in his 1982 book, ‘MITI and the Japanese Miracle’. While the term was used essentially to describe how Japan, a late comer to industrialization, was enabled to catch up with others in terms of economic development by State-led macroeconomic planning, the term ‘developmental state’ has been widely adopted ever since to refer to mainly East Asian economies, such as South Korea, with national governments showing similar characteristics.
Similar to Japan, South Korea is also a late industrializer that then experienced rapid economic development after mid-1950s, following the Korean War. This rapid development is generally explained by intense and close involvement of the bureaucratic governmental state. The Korean government is also seen to not only exert tight control to stimulate private initiative but also manipulate the market to that effect [Amsden, 1992].
Tokyo and Seoul compete as rivals as the administrative and financial capitals of two major players within the global economy. A comparative study carried out by Lee and Chung  showed that South Korea seems to be following the path of the Japanese economy with both economies following similar trajectories of growth and declines during global financial crises. In the process, starting from a smaller relative base, South Korea is rapidly catching up with Japan.
The similarity of their trajectories can be explained to a large extent by common traits of the economy found around the time when both Japan and South Korea set out to catch up with other industrialised nations as late comers to industrialization. Historically, during the Meiji period in Japan, ‘zaibatsu’ (financial cliques) had developed around conglomerations of industries and financial businesses owned by a single family. These were very large and powerful enterprises with formidable command and control structures that controlled large sectors and dominated the pre-war Japanese economy. Following Japan’s defeat in WWII, Allied occupation forces disbanded the four surviving zaibatsu on the pretext that they were “potential sources of militarism” [Nakamura and Odaka, 1999, p. 340]. Zaibatsu was never completely dissolved by Allied reformers as they were replaced by individual companies, not associated with the zaibatsu, banding together as enterprise groups around leading companies and major banks, forming subsidiaries or ‘keiretsu’ [Nakamura and Odaka, 1999]. The keiretsu did not have the strong vertical chain command structure of zaibatsu but pooled together their resources to set up industries that led to the rapid economic development of post-war Japan (New World Encyclopedia). In the case of South Korea, the situation has not been very different. The term ‘chaebol’ carries similar connotations in Korea as ‘zaibatsu’ and ‘keiretsu’ in Japan. Chaebol came into being in a similar manner as keiretsu and developed the same type of structure.
The close workings and support in terms of subsidies and investments by government agencies to certain favoured private groups led to the creation of huge privately owned enterprises or conglomerates with many diversified affiliates, referred to as ‘keiretsu’ in Japan or ‘chaebols’ in South Korea. The nation-state tended to engage very closely with powerful private sector enterprises, directing them along strategic paths of national economic development and strengthening them as required to gain an edge over competitors in the international arena. This active and forceful role of the central government agencies, such as the Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) behind the private sector in international market to ensure national economic development, prompted Chalmers Johnson to coin the term ‘developmental state’ in 1982.
In terms of the scale of their economies in recent times, South Korea’s per capita GDP has stood at about half that of Japan but that is changing. In 1995, the nominal per capita GDP of South Korea was $11,779 while that of Japan was $42,516. By 2012, these figures were projected at $23,021 and $46,896, respectively, with South Korea rapidly narrowing the gap between the two economies since then (Figure 1).
Taylor and Csomós  compared revenues generated by 2010 Forbes2000 list of largest corporations, aggregated for the cities where in they are headquartered. Their results revealed that Tokyo not only ranks first in the world but also represents an extreme level of global primacy (p. 410). They concluded that it is Japan’s historical legacy of economic creativity from the mid 1960s up to 1990 that propels its economic power even today, despite its ‘lost decade’ of economic progress in the 1990s [Taylor and Csomós, 2012]. The same study also reports Seoul in the 13th position on the list of world’s top 20 headquarter cities by individual sectors, leading in the industrial sector. While Tokyo housed 46 headquarters, Seoul hosted headquarters of 19 corporations, placing it at the 5th position, tied to London. On the list of top 20 headquarter cities by total revenues, while Tokyo tops again, Seoul is listed in the 5th position.
In the area of science and technology as well, South Korea is rapidly chasing Japan. A sectoral assessment of science and technology competitiveness of the two economies in 2011 showed that in terms of composite index of absolute indicators, South Korea measured only one-third that of Japan’s index, but this also represented a narrowing of gap since 2001 (Figure 2). South Korea’s improved scientific competitiveness ranking translated into technological competitiveness, with South Korea overtaking Japan in 2004. The gap has since widened, with South Korea ranking 11th and Japan 21st in 2013 (Figure 3).
Owing to many similarities in political, bureaucratic and socioeconomic characteristics as well as spatial configuration, many sociospatial issues in Japan and Korea seem to be comparable. For example, being the national administrative, political and economic centers of their nations, both Tokyo and Seoul have witnessed massive population influx due to internal migration from regions within the nation. Unlike most major Western cities, however, both cities have not relied on immigrants from overseas to meet their labour requirements due to their postwar national policies. Japan is especially noted for having resisted the pressure to import migrant workers despite facing severe labour shortages exasperated by a super-aging population. Until recently, South Korea has also acted similarly.
International immigration has been significant among OECD countries, driven mainly by recruitment of foreign workers to make up the labour force. Compared to most OECD countries where foreigners make up significant proportions of the workforce, Japan and Korea had extremely low percentage of foreign workers in their workforce. As Figure 4 illustrates, during the 1990s, both Japan and Korea have had very few foreign workers contributing to their national work force, measuring less than 1% [OECD, 2001]. This is despite the severe shortage of labour force mainly attributed to the negative population growth rates experienced by both countries. Since as far back as 2000, both countries have experienced negative population growth rates (United Nations 2014), earning the Japanese the status of a super-ageing and shrinking population, with South Korea not too far behind. In Japan, 34.6 million people (i.e. 27% of the total population) were older than 65 years in 2016; similarly, albeit less strikingly, in South Korea, the number of people older than 65 years reached 6.8 million (or 13.6% of the total population) in 2016, placing it “on the cusp of becoming an ‘aged society’” (Korea Times website:
In more recent years, Korea has increased its intake of foreign workers. According to OECD estimates, while the share of foreigners in the work force has more than doubled in Korea between 2005 and 2016, rising from 1.6% to 3.6%, it is still lower than most OECD countries. In Japan, meanwhile, the share has remained low, with no significant increases over the years [OECD, 2019], albeit in recent years, the government has pushed numerous changes to legislation to ease entry of foreign workers via various training programs.
Attracting migrants from all over their respective nations, the two capital regions, Tokyo Region and SMR, account for 25% and 49% of the national population, respectively, and even higher proportions of the economy [Lee et al., 2016; World Population Review, 2017]. Managing population movement into the capital cities positioned at the top of their national urban systems and keeping the land market pressures reasonably manageable to avoid massive suburbanization have been a major concern for planners in both cases. In 1943, Central Tokyo expanded its boundaries from its 23
While both cities were influenced by globalization of the economy that took hold since early 1990s, the two cities have experienced different manifestations of the phenomenon affecting their urbanization patterns differently. In Tokyo, suburbanization had set in since 1960s as people tended to move out to the suburbs in search of more affordable housing as the central areas became unbearably expensive. Sanger  described the phenomena in terms of increased residential mobility to less central but more affordable locations.
However, Tokyo’s growth pattern shows an anomaly due to the bubble economy entrenched during the latter half of the 1980s. Suburbanization gathered momentum between 1986 and 1991 due to an ‘asset price bubble’ driven by spectacular rises in real estate and stock market prices, fueled by uncontrolled credit expansion. However, monetary tightening by Bank of Japan led to bursting the ‘asset price bubble’ with the Nikkei stock index dramatically plummeting in value as property asset prices started to fall drastically in 1992. This ushered in unprecedented and anomalous population movement patterns within Tokyo Region. This bursting of the asset bubble also marked the beginning of a long period of economic stagnation that saw other Asian cities overtake it (Figure 7). Fluchter  reported that Tokyo experienced a turn around of population due to the process of
In contrast to Tokyo’s situation, the population of Seoul grew alarmingly rapidly before it began to decline after reaching its peak of 10.7 million in 1993. The decline of Seoul has coincided with a corresponding significant rise of population in its surrounding cities and provinces that were constituted within the SMR. The effective integration of Seoul with the economies of Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces enabled Seoul to manage and distribute its population pressures across the wider region. In order to integrate the populations and economy within the SMR, a number of initiatives to facilitate the creation of new towns were launched.
In January 1997, a Korean industrial conglomerate (
Major urban projects can shape or reshape the spatial configuration of cities. It is contended that while such projects are conceived and implemented in global cities while seeking to connect to and engage with the globalized economy, they also have to be balanced against national development concerns. This could lead to tensions especially in nations characterized by a developmental state wherein central government agencies tend to engage aggressively in the market. Key agencies representing the nation-state or central government and the metropolitan authorities governing the city could each influence the nature of processes and types of engagement that unfold and the nature and shape of projects that are created and delivered. The nature of urban planning responses by Tokyo and Seoul to impacts of major economic upheaval against the background of the globalizing of the economy could explain the mindset of major actors in urban development in the context of developmental state. In the following sections, we focus on how central government agencies representing the nation-state and the city government view and handle global projects that are needed to respond to local and global imperatives. In doing so, we seek to observe the dynamics and phenomenon of ‘disembeddedness’ of global cities from their national contexts defined by developmental states.
The Greater Tokyo metropolitan area (or Tokyo Region) comprises the Tokyo Metropolis as well as the prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa (Figure 5). It recorded a population of 35.63 million in 2010, representing 27.8% of the total national population. The Tokyo Metropolis comprises 23
According to Fluchter , while both Tokyo and Osaka had been established as the top urban centers within Japan’s national urban system by 1920, a series of developments since the 1930s led to the predominance of Tokyo over Osaka. In 1937, many government agencies relocated to Tokyo as part of centralization of government policy that saw private companies also shifting their headquarters. In the initial postwar period, the Allied occupation force continued the Tokyo-oriented development. The staging of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics further strengthened Tokyo’s predominance nationally, and the signing of the Plaza Agreement for Global trade in 1985 brought about the need for concentration of central functions in this global city [Fluchter, 2012].
1985 Plaza agreement and the beginning of the bubble economy resulted in rapid rises in demand for office space to accommodate central functions as the city’s economy adopted new roles in the global control of capital. This saw global businesses concentrating into Central Tokyo. While land available for office buildings increased by 30% in the five years from 1986 to 1991, the office vacancy rates in Central Tokyo had dropped to extremely low levels of around 0.3% [Mitsui Fudousan, 2015]. This led to abnormal rises in land prices, with the average price of commercial land almost quadrupling in three core inner city This seems to be more or less aligned to Harris and Ullman  model of cities – wherein cities with a single CBD develop into multiple nuclei cities to accommodate expansion and growing complexity of urban functions.
This seems to be more or less aligned to Harris and Ullman  model of cities – wherein cities with a single CBD develop into multiple nuclei cities to accommodate expansion and growing complexity of urban functions.
While the overall population of Tokyo Region has grown steadily between 1980 and 2010, this period saw great fluctuations in population levels within the region (Figure 8). The spectacular rise of the Japanese economy accompanied by the asset price bubble affecting Central Tokyo and its bursting around 1991 sparked major movements of urbanization and population changes within the Tokyo Region. In the 1980s, the three prefectures counted within Tokyo Region experienced very high levels of net in-migration from across Japan. After peaking in around 1987/1988, net in-migration in these prefectures steadily declined until the mid-1990s. While the decline was arrested in the latter half of 1990s, the net migration rates were much lower than they were around the mid-1980s.
During the 1980s, while Central Tokyo experienced a significant hollowing out of population, the rest of the Tokyo Metropolis population had remained quite stable. Sharp hikes in land and property prices squeezed out Central Tokyo residents to more peripheral and affordable locations. This set in motion a massive suburbanization process, with Central Tokyo recording a loss of 80,000 residents in 1988 alone.
The burst of the asset bubble in early 1990s, however, drastically changed the scenario. Residential land prices in Central Tokyo dropped spectacularly, triggering off the process of
Various policy initiatives at state, prefecture and municipality levels were considered to guide the repopulation of Central Tokyo, capitalizing on the
The interplay of population fluctuations occurring within Tokyo Region as depicted in Figure 10 reveals the counterbalancing role the three prefectures have played in accommodating the inflow of population into the Tokyo Region from the rest of the country between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. Around mid-1980s, Tokyo Metropolis was loosing significant numbers of residents, mainly due to out-migration from within the 23 inner
Seoul city is located within the National Capital region, referred to as the SMR comprising Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces (Figure 6). At the time of ceasefire of the war with North Korea in 1953, Seoul’s population stood at approximately 1 million. In 1978, its population had reached nearly 8 million. For reference, while it took London 130 years to grow from a city of 1 million to one with 8 million residents, Seoul achieved that in only 25 years. Since the start of industrialization in the 1960s, rural to urban migration and outward expansion of the city boundary were the most visible forces pushing the city’s rapid growth. As a result, Seoul’s population rose to 5.5 million in 1970 as its share of the national population reached 18%. Between 1966 and 1970, Seoul maintained an annual population growth rate of 9.8% in contrast to the national population growth rate of only 1.48%. These figures highlight the magnitude and pace of in-migration into Seoul over a relatively short period of time.
Although the trend of population concentration into Seoul eased gradually since 1970, the rate of population growth still remained high. By 1980, Seoul had become a large metropolis with about 8.4 million people, accounting for 22.3% of the national population. Despite the rapid and massive influx of population into the city, some areas on the city’s outskirts remained rural up to the late 1970s until the time when land use conversion from rural to urban started in the Gangnam area (south of the Han River). From around the mid-1970s, the population of the surrounding Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces also began to increase, although at a slower rate compared to that of Seoul. The combined population of SMR or the national capital region consisting of Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces reached over 13 million in 1980, accounting for 36% of the national population. Nonetheless, the relationship between Seoul and its immediate surrounding areas and satellite cities had not been strengthened until 1980.
As depicted in Figure 11, in aggregate terms, the population of the overall SMR has been steadily increasing between 1960 and 2010, albeit the pace has begun to ease somewhat after 1990. A distinctive feature in the growth trend of Seoul and its surrounding areas emerged from the middle of the 1980s onward as the rates of population increases in the surrounding areas overtook that of Seoul. The annual rate of population growth during the 1980–1990 period in the surrounding areas became twice that of Seoul. These developments indicate that rapid metropolitanization occurred whereby interdependence of population and economic activities between Seoul and its surrounding areas was established and strengthened over time. As a result, the combined population of the SMR increased to 18.1 million, representing 42% of the national population. On the other hand, even though the population growth rate of Seoul decreased, the absolute size of Seoul’s population still continued to increase with the resident population in Seoul exceeding 10 million for the first time in 1990.
The population of Seoul began to decline after peaking at 10.7 million in 1993 and dropped to 9.9 million in 2000. “One of the reasons for the decreased population of Seoul around 1990 was the drop in the number of migrants to Seoul due to the land and real estate prices” [The Seoul Institute, 2015, p.17]. Meanwhile, the population of Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces increased by 43% between 1990 and 2000 (Figure 11). The year 1995 marked the turning point as the population share of the surrounding areas within the SMR had been larger than that of Seoul’s, rising from 43% in 1990 to 54% in 2000. By 2000, the SMR region had grown further, accounting for 46.2% of the entire national population.
The decentralization of population and economic activities from Seoul was facilitated by a deliberative strategy that saw the construction of new towns in nearby areas. In 1980, the region surrounding Seoul housed only one city with a population of over 500,000 that had increased by four by 1990. The large-scale new towns constructed in the early 1990s also increased functional interaction between Seoul and its surrounding areas. This trend has continued, and by 2000, there were seven such cities, while another two were added to the list by 2010.
Thus, Seoul’s surrounding areas seem to have played an effective role in absorbing the population flowing into the SMR from other provinces. They have contributed to the pacification of the rate of population increase in Seoul (Figure 12). Since 2000, the trend of population moving out of Seoul and the concentration of population in the surrounding areas of SMR have not changed considerably. The population of Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces, meanwhile, grew by approximately 3.5 million people during the 1990s and by another 2.5 millions during the 2000s. As a result of Seoul’s population decline and the growth in its surrounding region, the population of Seoul was surpassed by the Gyeonggi province alone during 2000s.
In 2010, the total population of SMR increased to 23.5 million, representing 49% of the national total population. This means that nearly half of the Korean population lives in the metropolitan region occupying just 11.8% of the nation’s land.
In this section, we describe initiatives from Tokyo and Seoul conceived and implemented within the time period of 1980 to 2010 to explain how each city deals with global and local agendas in taking up major urban development measures. As Jacobs observed, Tokyo and Seoul represent municipal authorities whose “local functions and implementation have frequently been guided by national policy objectives” (2015, p. 89). We contend that despite being major global cities, the policy objectives of their major urban development projects are tempered to a large extent, even if not ultimately shaped, by a unitary state capable of influencing urban development.
We focus on two major ‘global’ project undertakings in the late 1980s and 1990s in Tokyo that unfolded during a period of major turmoil and uncertainty due to the formation of ‘asset price bubble’ and its bursting followed by extended period of economic recession. We explain how the conception and implementation of two projects, Tokyo Waterfront Development (at Odaiba) and Tokyo CBD redevelopment (Otemachi–Marunouchi–Yurakucho (OMY)), became intertwined as they dealt with global and local pressures within their urban context. For reference, both these developments are located in the inner core of Central Tokyo. While the Tokyo Waterfront development is located on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay, adjacent to the three core wards (Minato, Chuo and Chiyoda), OMY is located right in the heart of the CBD in the centre of Chiyoda ward (Figure 13).
We then focus on the conception and implementation of Songdo, a Korean example of a major urban development initiative. Songdo is an international business center within Incheon’s Free Economic zone (Figure 14). The physical layout and outlook of this development are quite similar to that of the Tokyo waterfront development in Odaiba. Songdo represents a massive global scale project that was also developed with a major national economic crisis unfolding in the background. In this paper, we seek to explain how Incheon city, a part of the SMR that plays a vital role in managing population pressures affecting Seoul, dealt with global and local pressures in managing the creation of Songdo city.
The concentration of global command-and-control functions in Tokyo was officially endorsed in the Fourth Comprehensive National Development Plan by the central government [Japan Kokudocho/NLA 1984]. Accordingly, TMG “devised a policy of selective concentration and stratification emphasising the need to facilitate globalization and an information infrastructure in the Central wards and relocate back office functions to the periphery” [TMG, 1986, p. 292]. In 1986, a multipolar urban structure through the creation of several sub-centers for Tokyo had been proposed to accommodate business expansion and relieve congestion from the CBD [TMG, 1986]. Around this time, in 1986 the central government also passed the Private Participation Promotion Act, referred to as the
During the bubble economy, a major waterfront development spreading over reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay was conceived as a comprehensive urban development in the shape of a self-contained new town at Odaiba. The significance of this particular waterfront development could be seen from the fact that it featured as one of the two Japanese ‘global’ projects selected by Marshall  in his book showcasing ten ‘global’ projects from across Asia. Built on reclaimed land with no prior development and located centrally in relation to the city, the waterfront area offered the ideal urban expanse to accommodate new office development (Figure 13). Saito noted, “The waterfront sub-centre was chosen as a primary area to enhance Tokyo’s global communication and exchange function” (2003, p. 295). On this site, Tokyo’s governor Suzuki also planned to set up a very ambitious open-air international exhibition called ‘Tokyo Frontier’ “to show off how the futuristic city was to be built with the aid of new technology to improve human life in the city [TMG, 1989]” [Saito, 2003, p. 297].
The economic recession following the bursting of the bubble economy slowed down the implementation of the project as investors pulled back. In 1995, Yukio Aoshima successfully contested the election of Governor on the pledge to cancel the Tokyo Frontier exhibition [Seguchi and Malone, 1996] and “promises of revising the project” [Saito, 2003, p. 299]. However, while the exhibition was cancelled, despite going through extensive reviews, the main framework of the plan largely remained in place, with only minor modifications [Seguchi and Malone, 1996; Saito, 2003]. The next governor, Ishihara, who took office in 1999 and set about to revitalize the economy of Tokyo, gave the project a shot in the arm by reemphasizing its role as “a strategic area to lead the globally orientated economy [TMG, 2001]” [Saito, 2003, p. 299]. The waterfront development was officially designated as one of the sub-centers, aimed at accommodating the socioeconomic trend of globalization and strengthening Tokyo’s economic advantage.
Saito  commented on how the nation-state went about trying to influence the outcome of the development project through debates and decision making. Saito contended that the state did not influence the conception and implementation of the planning project by imposing “government order, or command-and-control in crude forms”. Instead, the strategic national policy was influenced “through carefully crafted institutional arrangements in which the public and private sectors maintained a delicately balanced relationship with consensus and conformity within the framework of the capitalist developmental state” [Saito, 2003, p. 304].
While the original idea of the waterfront development as a teleport was a TMG initiative in association with the Bureau of Port and Harbour (BPH), within months, it was reviewed and transformed into a new business center development through central government influence. The responsibility for coordination of the project was shifted from BPH to other entities under the influence of national ministries. TMG was pressurized “to allocate more space for redevelopment to contribute to the Minkatsu Policy” [Saito, 2003, p. 300]. The Governor was clearly annoyed at this interference and insisted that TMG should be in charge of making the basic plan and lead the process, albeit in consultation with central government ministries. He objected to the central government’s focus on short-term interests of “boosting consumption and easing trade frictions with the US” [Saito, 2003, p. 300].
Siato concluded that the project was a political initiative by the Governor that almost got hijacked by the central government’s insistence on expanding office space component. There was an eventual compromise through a process involving “mutual dependence with strong rivalry”. It was clear that “they both needed each other despite fierce competition for the leadership” [Saito, 2003, p. 301]. In short, both actors had to learn to cooperate and collaborate to see the project implemented.
The evolution of the future development trajectory for Greater Tokyo and the status of OMY as its CBD are described as an “ideological battle” by Dimmer [2012, p. 94]. The Tokyo Waterfront Development project discussed above also played a major role in this battle.
In the spirit of decentralization, TMG had released ‘My Town Tokyo’ [1982, 1986] strategy to prevent over-congestion and further CBD growth by proposing a multipolar metropolitan region with sub-centers to absorb future development in Tokyo. “This policy change was symbolically stressed by the relocation of the city hall [Office of Tokyo’s Governor] from Yurakucho to Nishi-Shinjuku” [Dimmer, 2012, p. 94]. The relocation occurred between 1988 and 1990.
Deviating from the TMG’s decentralization policy, however, the National Land Agency (NLA) and several ministries continued to suggest the utilization of the land around Tokyo Station to accommodate high-intensity development with high-rise towers. This was inspired by the opportunities for private development created due to the privatization of Japan National Railway in 1987. The NLA advocated the need to create a grand design for downtown Tokyo, perhaps in the spirit of the central government’s
A relentless push by NLA for redevelopment of the downtown won the support of Chiyoda ward and 74 private companies, forming the ‘OMY District Development Council’ in 1988. The council came up with a redevelopment strategy that proposed a unified international business center at the CBD [Dimmer, 2012, p. 95]. The Governor, while maintaining Odaiba waterfront initiative, eventually endorsed the NLA narrative of the need for a grand downtown for Tokyo. To this effect, he proposed a reimagination of “the old mono-functional CBD as a new ‘amenity business core (ABC)’, effected through the setting up of new development principles for Tokyo’s central wards” [Dimmer, 2012, p. 95].
Referring to TMG’s policy of decentralizing Tokyo from a unipolar to a multipolar city to facilitate Tokyo’s functions as a global city, Dimmer  described the dealings between TMG and LMA as an ideological battle to shape the center of Tokyo. He contended that the revaluation of the built environment “did not simply stem from a changed mindset of ‘the government’” but evolved through a “complex interplay between local and global actors and discourses, hard and soft institutions and a specific spatio-culturally induced system of perception, interaction, representation and language” [Dimmer, 2012, p. 98].
The 1997 economic crisis served as a stimulus for the Korean government to increase its engagement with the globalizing economy. In the preceding years, the City of Incheon was promoting the idea of developing a new town, Songdo. Songdo or Songdo International Business District eventuated as a master-planned city spread over 1,500 acres of reclaimed land situated 65 kilometers to the west of Seoul (Figure 14). Within the SMR, Incheon had played a major role in relieving population pressure from Seoul over the previous decades. Sondgo was primarily a business district, developed as one of the towns within Incheon Free Economic Zone.
Songdo was conceived in the 1980s, as the Incheon city government began reclaiming wetlands to develop a new international city and replace its outdated industrial structure and reliance on the manufacturing industry. Songdo was envisaged as a major global project that sought to raise the nation’s competitiveness to attract foreign direct investment. In order to maintain its competitive edge within the globalizing economy, the Korean central government commissioned the town in 2001, signing an memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Gale and Wentworth, a US real estate investor and developer in a partnership with POSCO, a large industrial chaebol [Lichá, 2015]. This could also be seen as a measure to consolidate Seoul’s global city status due to its location within SMR.
Songdo was clearly conceived as a global project. Lichá notes that Songdo was planned “as a city for foreigners [Kuecker, 2013; Shwayri, 2013] and their convenience has been repeatedly pointed out. A non-Korean city for non-Koreans with large avenues, Central Park and English street names … with English used as the lingua franca [Kuecker, 2013]” [Lichá, 2015, p. 9].
In 2003, Songdo was designated by the national government as part of the Incheon Free Economic Zone [Kim, 2006]. However, there was a long period between its inception and official designation. During this period, due to the project’s scale and complexity and the involvement of an overseas investor, it became a “product of complicated interactions between the national and city governments” [Lichá, 2015, p. 1625].
This global scale undertaking potentially affected the nature of politics of urban development under the prevalence of a developmental state. Shin et al.  have analyzed the project from a perspective of scalar changes it brought about in the growth regimes. They contended that through this experience, a range of actors including “the Incheon city government, international developers, and civic organizations in addition to the nation state [came] to form a growth regime”. They described “how scalar tensions [arose] within the dynamics of collaboration and competition” [Shin et al., 2015, p. 1626].
The established dominance of the nation-state and a hierarchy between the government and businesses had meant that it was expected that the nation-state would control or interfere in the activities of businesses of mega-city projects [La Grange and Jung, 2004]. The dominance can be seen from 1962 Land Expropriation Act that enables the state to expropriate land for industrial and commercial/residential development. This is rationalized by the prioritization of national economic growth over free market operations, as part of the developmental state mentality.
To a large extent, however, the development of Songdo entailed collaboration and competition between the city government and international developers with the nation-state and its ministries as key actors. Shin et al. described how “their common interests emerged as a crucial driving force of the growth regime” [2015, p. 1626].
Incheon city government emerged as an active actor. It was the initiative of some local officials in the late 1980s that envisioned the transformation of Incheon into an international city. They sought permission from the state to circumvent the Capital Region Management Law, enacted in 1984 that controlled development within SMR and eventually succeeded after 15 years in 2001. While the project enjoyed strong support from the Mayor during the first eight years, the new Mayor who took over office in 2010 was critical of the development pointing to “inequality between Songdo and the old city center of Incheon” [Shin et al., 2015, p. 1626].
There was a significant friction between the various key actors, between the city and the nation-state and even between two government ministries about who had the authority to influence and control the development. Shin et al. reported that early signs of friction appeared when the nation-state sought to appoint the Director for the authority following complaints by a former chair of undue interference by the Mayor and the city parliament in the working of Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority (FEZA). The state then tried to bring FEZA under nation-state control by installing a Special Purpose City government, a move that was fiercely objected to by the city government. This incident seems to be a defining moment, marking “the shift from local initiatives and national reluctance to national dominance and local resistance” [Shin et al., 2015, p. 1630].
As Shin et al.  explained, the East Asian Economic Crisis served as a national crisis reaffirming the ideology of national interest. It “brought about the reemergence of the nation-state as an umpire in competitions among cities”. The crisis “effected a power shift from a selected city, Incheon, to a selector, the nation state”. The Ministry of the Knowledge Economy assumed the role of selecting and rejecting proposed FEZA initiatives for consideration (p. 1630). It seems that the city’s position had already been weakened in terms of influencing the shaping of the project before the formal signing of the MOU for the project with an overseas partner.
The East Asian Economic Crisis hit Korea in 1997, before the Incheon airport became operational, and an MOU for the project was signed off with Gale and Wentworth Company in 2001. In 2002, the President of Korea announced his support assuring smooth implementation of the project. Table 1 shows the key actors in urban development that emerged over time in relation to the Songdo development. It is interesting to note how the number of actors playing key roles increased as the project progressed. Although the city government initiated the project and played a key role in leading the project, the nation-state took more control in later years. “The discourse of globalization has further promoted the ideology of national competitiveness” [Shin et al., 2015, p. 1629].
Changing of key actors in Songdo development
|Key actors||City government||City government, nation-state||Nation-state, city government, international developer, domestic developer||Nation-state, city government, international developer, domestic developer, civic organizations|
|Scales||Local||Local, national||National, local, global||National, local, global|
Local civic organizations appeared in the process as “antigrowth regime” and opposed the FEZ policy, describing it as being neoliberal and pro-capital and claiming that it would undermine “labor rights, environmental regulation, and public education”. However, they could not impact the processes or structures whereby they could play a role in “the development or in the decision-making, as their financial and political resources were limited” [Shin et al., 2015, p. 1630]. Once the Ministry of the Knowledge Economy designated Songdo as a promising FEZ in 2004, the project’s implementation became inevitable and the opposition put up by civic organizations dissolved.
The two examples from Tokyo discussed in this paper clearly show how Tokyo is not ‘disembedded’ from its national boundaries as it engages with the global economy, as global city theory suggests. While the city strives to meet its urban planning challenges of a global command center, it still needs to negotiate with national stakeholders and their interests. The NLA and various ministries were able to exert pressure to counter, negotiate and effectively contribute to the shaping of the city’s spatial structure. Another point to note is that the city sought to use the public sentiment to its advantage in dealing with the other stakeholders. This suggests that the city also needs to consider the local context and views of the local community.
The adventurous Tokyo waterfront development, for example, survived the economic crisis as well as competition for attention by the CBD. TMG could defend the development by re-emphasizing its role as a sub-center of a decentralized global Tokyo, but it also accommodated LMA’s push to refurbish the CBD through initiatives probably reflecting central government’s
The unfolding of the major urban development projects from their inception to execution shows how the process involves negotiations and compromises by the city (TMG) and central government agencies (such as NLA and government ministries). As such, it is evident that while the city responded to pressures of maintaining its global status, it also remained embedded within its larger territorial state.
The collapse of bubble economy was a key determinant of the spatial transformations witnessed in Tokyo because it directly influenced the consumer’s housing choice and the developers’ market strategy. It is clear that the wide range of public interventions in the late 1990s was worked out through debates and negotiations and not by a certain mindset of either the city or the nation-state. Overall, urban regeneration strategy and policies during and in the aftermath of global economic turbulence have facilitated the population recovery in Central Tokyo. Spatial policies thought out at national and metropolitan government levels to reinforce the function of Tokyo as a competitive global city have effectively channelized the phenomenon of
In the case of Seoul, the changing of population patterns have not been as dramatic as that seen in Tokyo, mainly because Seoul has not experienced the asset price bubble burst and the fact that its population was effectively distributed within its larger metropolitan region. The rapid urbanization and population expansion in Seoul right after the Korean War was seen and recognized as a concern by the nation-state. The developmental sate took upon itself to set up elaborate arrangements to manage Seoul’s phenomenal growth and expansion. The creation of the SMR ensured that the capital region could accommodate the flow of migration from the rest of the country within the region while not overwhelming Seoul itself. By developing Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces as integral parts of the SMR, it allowed the further potential growth of Seoul to be absorbed into the region. Over time, links have been strengthened between Seoul and its surrounding area, ensuring that the process of metropolization has occurred. By 2010, Seoul’s population had stabilized and it began to lose its population with respect to its surrounding areas.
The creation of the new city of Songdo was a spatial planning initiative meant to revive the position and engagement of Korea within the global economy. Similar to Tokyo’s waterfront development initiated around the same time period, Songdo was assigned the role of an information technology center to strengthen the global city status of Seoul. The city of Incheon conceived Songdo as a business center that would cater to the needs of global investors, as is evident from the emphasis provided on English street names, for example. The ‘global’ character of the project is exemplified by the involvement of an overseas private real estate developer as a partner signing an MOU with the Korean government. The Songdo experience reveals how the range of actors including the city government and the nation-state in the form of a developmental government compete to exert influence and control over major development projects.
Both Tokyo and Seoul, as national capitals, also aspire to become and remain major global cities. While the developmental state supports and facilitates its city in the external competition with other global cities, it also tends to compete with the city government internally to influence developments within the cities. The city governments thus compete externally with other global cities with state support, while internally they compete with the influence of the central government agencies representing the developmental state in shaping their physical form.
In this milieu, the city and the state have worked out ways to compete and collaborate with each other in handling major urban spatial planning undertakings necessitated by various developments globally and nationally. While intense, negotiations between the city and the nation-state remain largely attentive to global developments and are ultimately guided by the need to enhance the global city’s functioning as a global command post.
The struggle witnessed between the metropolitan government and central government agencies in pushing through their development agendas in both Tokyo and Seoul shows that in the course of time, the mutual concern of all actors toward strengthening the global role of their city teaches them to collaborate to pursue their common objectives.
In each case, the crises provide a justification for the developmental nation-state to take firmer control of the processes and act as an umpire to prioritize the national interest over other agendas. However, the central government agencies representing the developmental state also appear to be mindful of the significance of providing sufficient room and leverage for their global cities to engage with global players. It is thus uncommon for the nation-states to unilaterally impose their will or viewpoint.
It may be concluded that cities in developmental states remain fully integrated with the global economy while they are under pressure to consider and work out ways to accommodate national concerns and imperatives for development. In this way, global cities in developmental states do not get disembedded from their national contexts.
Changing of key actors in Songdo development
|Key actors||City government||City government, nation-state||Nation-state, city government, international developer, domestic developer||Nation-state, city government, international developer, domestic developer, civic organizations|
|Scales||Local||Local, national||National, local, global||National, local, global|