SEJONG -- It is now seven years since the launch of Sejong Special Autonomous City in July 2012.
The centrally located city borders Daejeon to the south, Gongju to the west, Cheonan to the north and Cheongju to the east. It is also relatively close to the southern provinces of North Jeolla and North Gyeongsang.
As of June 2019, its population came to 327,643 with the number of households reaching 129,937.
As the fastest-growing city in South Korea, Sejong is actively attracting people from neighboring cities and from the Seoul metropolitan area.
Builders and retailers have rushed to the vicinity of the new Government Complex Sejong in Eojin-dong as well as to Naseong-dong, where some public agencies and state-funded institutes are located.
Visitors to a Jungheung Construction model house in Sejong look at a miniature version of the S-Class Centum View, an apartment complex with 576 units to be built near the Government Complex in Eojin-dong by October 2021. (Yonhap)
It is also one of the few areas in the nation where construction of residential complexes has been vitalized. Near the government complex, visitors can see major apartment brand names such as Hyundai Engineering & Construction’s Hillstate and Jungheung Construction’s S-Class.
Sejong has already been designated by the Land Ministry as an area that is likely to see significant property speculation.
A real estate agent in the city said it was hard to predict what the place would look like a few years from now. “More and more households are moving here from Daejeon (the nation’s fifth-largest city) and from South and North Chungcheong provinces.”
He said the number of residents working in the service sector is growing in proportion to the increasing number of civil servants.
The Ministry of Science and ICT is scheduled to relocate its office from Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, to Sejong. The Ministry of Interior and Safety finished relocating there in the first quarter.
Of the 18 government ministries, the complex is home to 12: The finance, environment and agriculture ministries moved there in 2012, followed by the Trade Ministry, the Employment Ministry and seven others.
A lingering concern, however, is that a large percentage of civil servants commute between the complex and the Seoul metropolitan area via KTX high-speed trains or government-funded commuter buses.
“Our daily sales during weekdays far surpass those on weekends,” said a food retailer in Sejong. “The families of many civil servants still reside in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province due to factors such as their children’s education and the lack of infrastructure here, like department stores and general hospitals.”
He also said private consumption among residents was limited as no major financial firm or conglomerate-based enterprise had its headquarters here.
Nonetheless, analysts shared a positive view of the growth potential of the city, the result of an experiment initiated by former President Roh Moo-hyun.
Sejong is the youngest region in the nation. Of all Korea’s cities and provinces, only Sejong can say the average age of its residents is under 40.
While the nationwide average for eight major cities and nine provinces is 42.4 years, with even higher averages of 44.2 in Busan and 45.9 in South Jeolla Province, the figure for Sejong was 36.8 as of June -- 36.2 for men and 37.4 for women. Seoul citizens’ average age was 42.4 -- 41.5 for men and 43.2 for women -- reflecting the nationwide average.
“The youngest district means the highest percentage of working-age people, people between 15 and 64. This is promising within an aged society,” said a research analyst in Seoul.
(Graphic by Han Chang-duck/The Korea Herald)
Over the past five years, since June 2014, Korea saw its population increase by 609,000 -- from 51.23 million to 51.84 million. During the same time frame, Sejong City recorded far faster population growth, an increase of 196,000 from 130,000 to 327,000 -- the equivalent of 32.1 percent of the nation’s population growth.
In addition, city officials are pushing ahead with plans for a new KTX station as early as 2025, either in Yongpo-ri or Balsan-ri in Geumnam-myeon. Both areas are just south of the Geum River, a five-minute bus ride from the government complex.
The envisioned Sejong Station is part of a policy road map unveiled by Mayor Lee Choon-hee last year, which contained 145 pledges for his four-year term that would require about 9.3 trillion won ($7.8 billion) to fulfill.
The budget for Sejong Station is estimated at 100 billion to 130 billion won, and it could serve as a valuable intermediate point between Osong Station in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, and Gongju Station in South Chungcheong Province.
Construction of the Seoul-Sejong Expressway has been underway since the time of former President Park Geun-hye.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)