The Bartlett School of Planning


Ju Eun Kim

Research subject

Thesis title: Reconsideration on Neighbourhood Regeneration from the Perspective of Smart Shrinkage: Responses to urban shrinkage in a small city, Yeongju, South Korea

Primary supervisor: Dr Joanna Williams
Secondary supervisor: Professor Yvonne Rydin
Starting date: November 2015
Projected completion date: - 
Email: ju.kim.13@ucl.ac.uk

Since the early 20th century, increasing studies have sought to shed light on urban shrinkage globally. The term shrinking city names the phenomenon wherein cities experience a great degree of population decline for a sustained period of time. Recently observed dramatic demographic trends in South Korea, such as low fertility and rapidly aging population, demonstrate that a growing number of cities are in the need of planning for a future with far fewer inhabitants. Researches however indicate Korean urban shrinkage is deeply rooted in uneven geographical development. The development of capitalism and geopolitics has also contributed to the excessive population concentration into the capital area while intensifying the structural vulnerability in small cities to shrinkage. In the face of the nation’s total population decline, slow economic growth and deepening spatial disparity, growth strategies cannot be an absolute countermeasure to urban shrinkage. Here, particular attention has been paid to urban regeneration policy. This research seeks to reconsider neighbourhood regeneration from the perspective of smart shrinkage which refers to an alternative approach to dealing with urban shrinkage. Smart shrinkage implies planning for fewer residents to ensure their quality of life.  

Despite the urgency of paradigm shift and alternative approaches to shrinking cities, it has yet to come up with a framework for proper smart shrinkage countermeasures breaking away from the growth-oriented policies. Also, the pervading negative perception of depopulation delays the transition from an entrenched growth-oriented one to a new kind of planning paradigm. Therefore, this research has two main objectives. Firstly, it attempts to identify the key reasons and real issues of urban shrinkage in Korean small cities, and to improve the concept of smart shrinkage particularly for Korean shrinking cities. Next, the research intends to critically analyse the importance and limitation of neighbourhood regeneration in order to develop and implement smart shrinkage. As a practical case, the study explores the Neighborhood Regeneration plan in Yeongju: an intense shrinking city in South Korea. Despite the different causes, impacts and processes of shrinkage, we can learn from the experience of the city that has been going through its transition period. Sharing the key barriers and opportunities to smart shrinkage from the case site will help other shrinking and potential shrinking cities across the world to facilitate adapting and transforming in the face of continuous depopulation.