• Updated : 2020.11.27 금 10:45
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For Creating More Inclusive Cities
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승인 2020.09.16  11:11:19
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

   
▲ Park Kyong-hwan, Professor, Department of Geography Education

    Cities are not privately owned. If they were, they would no longer be called a “city”. Although some of the land and built environment is privately owned, a city cannot sustain itself without public spaces, such as streets, roads, and parks. They serve to “all” of the people living in the city. The city is a cradle in which vibrant interactions of diverse people nurture vibrant culture and innovative ideas. The public sector is vital in order to maintain the common grounds of the city. That is the reason we pay taxes to the city government so that civil servants can maintain public spaces for creating a sustainable and livable everyday world.
    Unfortunately, during the last few decades, South Korea has been significantly losing social and spatial publicness of the city. So much urban land was sold to private developers and investors for commercial construction projects. Urban properties, which had sustained a common ground for democratic life, were degraded as a tool to make more surplus value and a symbolic representation for conspicuous consumption. Newly-built commercial and residential environments are elaborately designed to exclude “undesirable” others such as lower class or homeless people. The task of urban planning is in the hands of powerful, professional elites and bureaucrats. Consequently many ordinary as well as disadvantaged citizens are losing their rights and responsibilities for creating public-oriented livable, diverse, and sustainable cities. Undoubtedly the changes above are influenced by the triumphant neoliberalization of capitalism.
    Henry Lefebvre, a French social theorist who argued for the people’s rights to the city in the 1970s, had once warned that urban space in the future would be degenerated into a manipulative instrument for profiteering. He prioritized the common use value of urban space over its exchange value for private profits. He laid a cornerstone for recent discussion on the concept of an inclusive city. In general, inclusive cities are referred to as such by satisfying five conditions, which include local democracy and good governance, the social inclusion of marginalized groups, the promotion of cultural diversity and identity, better accessibility to basic services, and the citizen-participatory process of urban planning.
    In several countries and cities, the efforts to create a more inclusive city have accomplished a noticeable outcome. In 2001, the Brazilian government established an anti-monopoly law to set a ceiling on the ownership of land in the city. Montreal and Barcelona adopted a charter to defend people’s rights to the city in the 2000s. New Yorkers have long campaigned to secure more public spaces since the 1980s, and in the 2000s the city’s private-owned public spaces amount to more than 500. The People’s Park near UC Berkeley remains a precious social field on which people learn about grass-roots and participatory democracy.
    In South Korea, the central government has recently re-launched the Balanced National Development Policy (NDP), which had been ambitiously implemented about a decade ago. Apparently it is welcoming news. It contains, however, a danger to revitalize “depressed” areas by attracting private external capital. The NDP is not a simple effort to flatten spatial differences. Rather, it is a democratic movement to defend public spaces from the profit-oriented and the exploitative development of land.
    David Harvey, a renowned geographer of the US, once argued that “the right to the city is [...] a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization.” Public spaces should be a democratic social field on which internal contradictions in the city are freely expressed so that all people in the city learn patience with socio-cultural differences and occasional inconvenience. 
 

By Park Kyong-hwan, Professor, Department of Geography Education

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