The role of government in conflict resolution related to urban and regional development in Korea
This research started from the recognition that intergovernmental conflicts are inevitable in
the process of public policy-making. ;.md that changes in extel11al environments have an
influence on the process of conflict management and resolution. As Korean society changed
in the 1990s toward democratisation and local autonomy (especially from 1995). the potential
grew for intergovernmental conflicts over major urban and regional development projects.
The purpose of this research has been to examine the factors influencing the intensity of such
conflicts and the variables for conflict resolution related to major regional development
projects and environmental issues, and in particular to consider the role of the government in
the process of conflict resolution.
A review of the literature on conflict theory and conflict resolution (Chs. 3 -4)
identified the key factors influencing conflict origins and management of the process of
conflict. It indicated the key variables influencing conflict resolution including the potential
for new, more mediating roles in conflict resolution. It suggested that the degree of difficulty
in resolving conflicts was related to the intensity of the conflict concerned. Further literature
reviews on the introduction of local government autonomy in Korea (ChA) and the existing
spatial planning system (Ch.5), document the growth of intergovernmental conflicts since
1995. They also verified the need for research into this general problem and provided a
specific research scope in relation to major development and environmental projects in Korea
so as to promote more effective management and negotiation strategies (Ch.6).
The second stage of the research programme began by defining the requirements of a
theoretical framework to be applied in an empirical analysis. Because of the need to
investigate complex, time-extensive relationships in the specific context of Korea, the method
of comparative case studies was chosen for this purpose. The main elements of the
framework (Ch.7) included the factors influencing the intensity of conflict, ways of
measuring the degree of intensity and the factors involved in conflict resolution. Three
categories of intergovernmental conflicts were chosen for case study, and in order to provide
a basis of comparison of the position before and after local autonomy (1995) two cases were
examined in each category. The three categories were: nuclear plants at Amyun Island and
Yongwang (Ch.8); major transport infrastructure projects at Kyungju and Inchun (Ch.9); and,
water resource investment projects at Wichun and Youngwol (Ch.1 0). The comparative
analysis is provided in Chapter 11.
The case study analysis of these major development projects in Korea generally
supported the central hypothesis of the relationship between the intensity of a conflict and the
relative difficulty in its resolution. After the introduction of local autonomy the intensity of
intergovernmental conflicts had become more visible, more intense and more difficult to
resolve. Despite central government's role as a direct participant, there was some evidence
of an emerging and useful mediation role which could be encouraged and developed further.
The conclusions drawn from this research suggest that the key to developing a
successful government role in conflict resolution in Korea will be to ensure a congruence
between all elements of the planning framework, full integration and co-ordination between
spatial plans or projects, and, the involvement all participants in the process of conflict
resolution. There are also important roles for government in establishing new schemes for
alternative dispute resolution and mechanisms for balancing between local/regional burdens
and national benefits. These should be an integral part of an organisational strategy for
continuous improvement in order to maximise the level of social satisfaction and competitive
advantages in Korea's regional development. In terms of successful implementations of
alternative approaches for conflict resolution, the outcomes for govel11ments and people
would be a better performance in conflicts related to urban and regional development.