H.E. Mr. Jang-Seop Oh
Minister of Construction and Transportation of the Republic of Korea
The Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly for an Overall Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Outcome of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT II)

New York, 6 June 2001

 Mr. President,
distinguished delegates,
ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to represent the Republic of Korea at this important meeting.

As we enter the new millennium, the process of globalization is rapidly transforming our world, with widespread implications for our habitat. For this reason, it is an opportune time to appraise our achievements since the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) five years ago and to renew our commitment to enhancing the living environment.

Mr. President, .
Over the past decades, a worldwide trend towards urbanization has dramatically altered our socio-economic situation, so that half of the world's population now resides in cities. Furthermore, the rapid development of transportation and communication systems has enabled people to live in closer proximity and become more connected than ever before.

From an economic, social and cultural standpoint, cities are becoming an ever more important space for mankind. At the same time, the rapid growth of the urban population has posed serious social and economic problems that threaten sustainable development and the guarantee of an adequate habitat. These include, but are not limited to, a lack of roads, water supplies and other basic infrastructure and services; disparities in wealth; environmental pollution and urban crime.

While the urban problems are largely concentrated in the developing world, they are by no means confined to a specific area. For this reason, the effective implementation of the agenda set forth in Habitat II has become a common task for the global community.

 Mr. President,
The Republic of Korea attaches great importance to the outcome of Habitat II. We are determined to implement the action plans proposed at the Conference in the most efficient manner and have concentrated our efforts thus far on two objectives - namely, adequate shelter for all and sustainable human settlements development.

To this end, the central government has been cooperating with major stakeholders, including local governments and civil society. As a result, improvements have been made not only to the stability of the shelter supply, land ownership, equality in use and other basic shelter services, but also to overall living conditions, such as shelter environment and home financing.

In particular, since the late 1980s, efforts to expand the housing supply have resulted in the resolution of the countrywide housing shortage. The quality of shelter has also been enhanced, particularly with greater living space per house and modern facilities. As I mentioned earlier, the important role played by local governments and civil society in housing policy has been acknowledged and further strengthened.

However, the unprecedented financial crisis that we faced in late 1997 led to increased uncertainty for Korea's housing policies. In the wake of the crisis, housing construction dwindled and household income declined in both real and nominal terms. Faced with these new challenges, the Korean government has introduced a number of bold measures to normalize the housing market.

A key part of the reform process has been the easing or deregulation of many land and housing-related ordinances. In addition, advanced real estate financing techniques have been introduced.

As part of the effort to enhance the social safety net in times of crisis, the National Basic Living Standard Guarantee Act was enacted to better assist the socially vulnerable and disadvantaged. Acknowledging the important role played by women in improving the habitat, the Republic of Korea recently promulgated the Sexual Discrimination Prohibition Act and established the Ministry of Gender Equality.

 In response to the growing interest among the Korean people in the quality of life, especially with respect to the environment, the central and local governments have been encouraged to reinforce their environment-related functions and to lend their support to non-profit organizations devoted to environmental issues.

While we recognize these significant achievements, a number of challenges, including the continued concentration of the population in the capital region and the ensuing socio-economic problems, still need to be squarely addressed.

Finally, Mr. President,
Korea has been recognized as one of the world's most successful countries in terms of the provision of an adequate supply of housing in a relatively short period. In this regard, we are ready to share our experiences with other developing countries and to assist them within our capacity.

I can assure you that the Republic of Korea remains fully committed to implementing the Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda. The Republic of Korea also wholeheartedly supports the adoption of the Declaration at this meeting and intends to actively participate in international efforts to tackle global shelter problems.
Thank you very much.