Endowed Professor of Urban and Regional Systems at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)
I began my education in my native South Korea in Architectural Engineering, studied Urban Design at Meistershule für Architekture, Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna, Austria, and completed graduate study in planning at Princeton University with a Ph.D. degree in 1976.
I was first introduced to Regional Science by a colleague of mine, a Ph.D. student at Princeton, who showed me Walter Isard’s ‘Green Book’. The book opened my eyes at the time when I was struggling with searching for suitable methods for solving urban and regional problems. Luckily I met Professor Edwin Mills who taught me economic principles, which I integrated with regional science methods. This was the beginning of my wonderful career as a planner, engineer and regional scientist, searching for strategies for solving spatial settlement issues.
I am very proud of the career I have chosen following in my father’s footstep as a university professor, having chosen urban planning and regional science as my main focus of discipline. I must have done something good since my son also has chosen to be an academic.
Equipped with socio-economic theories based on engineering education and regional science methodologies, I have had a wonderful career.
In addition to publishing 8 books, 140 journal articles, book chapters, and professional articles in the areas of transportation planning, urban and regional development, global urbanization, geographic information systems, intelligent transportation systems and location-based services, I was fortunate to gain experience in solving real-world problems. In 1979–80, I served as the project director of the National Comprehensive Transportation Study of Korea, sponsored by the World Bank. I also directed the Optimal Transport Sector Development Project in Indonesia in 1990–1991. I have been an advisor to the ArRiyadh Development Authority (ADA) in Saudi Arabia since 1994. I have been a Fulbright Scholar to Germany (1986) and Senior Fulbright Scholar to Korea (1994–1995).
Furthermore, I have served as International Conference Coordinator of the Regional Science Association (1988–1991); co-Editor of The Annals of Regional Science for the period of 1994–2005; a member of Council, Regional Science Association International (2008–2010); and served as President of the Western Regional Science Association (2008–09).
My research contributions are intended to advance both planning scholarship and practice surrounding issues of growth and change. As a regional scientist, I have searched for theories and methods that provide a framework for developing and evaluating realistic strategies for mitigating problems caused by human settlements, environmental degradation and economic growth in urban areas. As a planner, I have been a strong advocate for the practical side of the planning profession. I have consistently embraced opportunities to put my expertise in the field of urban planning into practice. My current research focus can be grouped in the following three topics:
Technologies and Cities
New technologies alter the physical possibilities of human settlement, as well as the economic, cultural, and political relations of everyday urban life. A great deal of my current research has focused on how new information technologies (IT)–the Internet, personal computers, personal digital assistants, and wireless communications–are transforming the world as we know it and how that transformation really takes shape in human settlements, particularly in urban areas.
Transportation, Land Use and Infrastructure Protection
Early in my career as an urban planner and a regional scientist, I became convinced that the analysis of transportation issues cannot be separated from other urban and regional activities. The majority of my research on transportation has to do with searching for fundamental causes and solutions for transportation problems stemming from land use, socio-economic factors, and the modern lifestyles of urban residents.
According to the United Nations, the world will need to build new cities and/or expand existing cities to accommodate about 1.6 billion additional urban residents by 2030. This trend is the result of many complex socio-economic and political factors, and poses unprecedented challenges to the functioning of cities and the quality of life for urban dwellers. The resources needed for accommodating new urban dwellers will be enormous. Can we plan sustainable future cities? With this question in mind, I have collaborated with scholars from various parts of the world in implementing research projects investigating population and urban growth and change in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, China, Korea, Sweden, Kenya, Poland and the USA.
The basic question I address in my research has been “What would be the major economic, social, and environmental implications, particularly in an urban context, in the event of specific changes in technology and lifestyle?” I am continually searching for improved frameworks to apply to the formulation of scenarios regarding sustainable urban and regional development. At the same time, it is my view that the potential to increase the utility of living in urban areas while simultaneously facilitating environmental sustainability depends not only on planning, economic instruments, and new technologies, but also upon education and the cooperation of citizens through changes in their lifestyles.
(Published on RSAI Newsletter 2011 November)