SEJONG, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the waiving of preliminary feasibility studies for 23 projects worth 24.1 trillion won (US$21.5 billion) in the latest move to promote balanced regional development.
The decision means that the projects will be on the fast track for implementation across the country except Seoul.
The projects call for, among other things, fostering regional strategic industries through research and development; building roads, railroads and a tram system; and setting up a hospital to treat people injured in industrial accidents.
"The government's strategic investments are urgently needed to secure a foothold for regional growth," Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, said in a news conference at the ministry's building in Sejong, an administrative hub located about 130 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
Many young South Koreans in rural provinces have flocked to Seoul in search of high-paying jobs over the past decades, a move that has led to the hollowing out of rural communities and poor infrastructure in provincial areas.
The latest action calls for the provision of 200 billion won for development of technologies for future vehicles in North Jeolla Province on the country's southwest.
The projects also include the construction of an international airport worth 800 billion won in Saemangeum, a reclaimed area on the country's southwest coast, by relocating a small airport near the port city of Gunsan to Saemangeum.
South Korea has been seeking to attract foreign investment and to transform Saemangeum -- more than four times the size of Manhattan -- into an eco-friendly waterfront city with high-end industrial, tourism and agricultural facilities, as well as science and research institutes.