Since taking office around two and half years ago, Mayor Shin Yeon-hee has been busy keeping her promise to make Gangnam-gu the best district and heighten its global standing. As a result, the district is seeing the fruits of such efforts in fields such as tourism, economy and welfare. BusinessKorea sat down with her to hear the secret of the district’s excellent performances.
Q: It has been over two years since you became head of Gangnam-gu District Office. Have there been any remarkable accomplishments from projects you have proceeded with?
A: Gangnam-gu is indeed one of the nation’s representative districts. Since I took office in July 2010, I have tried my best to realize the policy vision of each field, aiming to make Gangnam-gu the nation’s best district not only in terms of economics, but also education, welfare, environment, culture, transportation, administration, and everything else.
Myself and approximately 1,400 public servants in Gangnam-gu have been busy keeping the promise to “make the district full of hope” and “heighten the district’s global standing”. It has been concluded that Gangnam-gu’s “full-day child care service for 24 hours, 365 days” will go nationwide, having been recognized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Furthermore, in 2011, Gangnam-gu was chosen as the best district in terms of financial soundness.
Now at the mid-point of my term, I am pleased and grateful that our efforts have resulted in good performance and the district’s global standing has been heightened. In particular, I am proud of our support for the success of the G20 Summit 2010 and the Nuclear Security Summit 2012, which showcased the attractiveness of Gangnam-gu District and the mature civic consciousness of Gangnam-gu people.
Q: What kind of support are you providing to attract foreign investment into the district and promote international trade for Gangnam-gu-based companies?
A: As soon as I took office, I began making necessary bylaws, including provisions about incentives to attract promising Korean and foreign companies into the district. In accordance with these bylaws, we have officially established the business and investment support commission. Our public servants are also involved in various one-to-one investment promotion activities.
Thanks to these efforts, we succeeded in settling Ralph Lauren Korea (annual sales estimated at 200 billion won), Pacific Pharma, The Redface, and three other promising companies in Gangnam-gu District last year.
We will continue to strengthen our capacity to attract businesses this year. We plan to form an honorary business advisory council composed of experts in business transfer. Furthermore, we will offer promotion seminars and presentations directly to businesses.
We will also diversify our efforts in order to maximize the economy of Gangnam-gu. For example, we will supply landmark buildings by redeveloping the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) building site and the Suseo subway station area, which will help attract global anchor businesses.
Approximately 8,400 trading firms, equivalent to nearly 7.3% of the national total, have converged in Gangnam-gu District. Most are small and medium-sized enterprises. Since my inauguration, we have dispatched commerce promotion teams to and supported global exhibitions in 19 cities in 12 countries across Europe, South America and Southeast Asia, as well as our international sister communities such as the Chaoyang District in Beijing and Gwuinnett County in Georgia, USA. In total we have helped 154 Gangnam-gu based companies win a total of 116.3 billion won worth of export contracts. This year, we will continue to dispatch the commerce promotion teams overseas and provide full support for small and medium-sized enterprises participating in recognized global exhibitions.
Q: It is said that Gangnam-gu’s international convention and exhibition venue COEX is no longer enough to accommodate increasing market demand. Is there something in your mind to solve this problem?
A: First of all, Gangnam-gu Office is in talks with COEX to extend exhibition space and convention space by 30% (35,287㎡→45,370㎡) and 60% (14,143㎡→22,938㎡), respectively. Our mid and long-term plan is to redevelop the site (34,412.2㎡) of the Seoul Trade Exhibition Center, which is currently used as an exhibition venue for small and medium-sized enterprises, into a larger-scale exhibition complex, and to efficiently connect its function to that of COEX. In this regard, we are in talks with the Seoul municipal government.
Furthermore, the site (143,534㎡) of KEPCO, which is scheduled to move out of Gangnam-gu in 2014 according to public organization relocation plans, will be redeveloped into a complex commercial infrastructure serving many purposes, such as international exhibition and convention, culture, tourism, accommodation and business.
Q: Gangnam-gu has recently gained great popularity around the world due to Psy’s hit song “Gangnam Style.” Please introduce Gangnam-gu’s major tourist sites.
A: Since August last year when Psy’s “Gangnam Style” came into the spotlight, Gangnam-gu Office has been flooded with requests for press coverage, including The New York Times, Germany’s public media ZDF, and mass media from Singapore, the Philippines, etc.
Some tourists imagine modern skyscrapers when it comes to “Gangnam,” yet Gangnam is actually a very attractive place where “modernity” and “tradition” coexist. Gangnam-gu District has many traditional sites, such as “Seonjeongneung,” a royal tomb designated a world heritage site by UNESCO, “Bongeunsa,” an old Buddhist temple housing a handwritten sign by Kim Jeong-hee (a 19th century famous scholar, artist and calligrapher) and 16 other cultural assets, “Tomb of Gwangpyung Prince,” one of King Sejong’s sons, “Kukkiwon,” the world Taekwondo headquarters, and “Korea Cultural House (KOUS),” as well as very modern sites such as “COEX,” the “Horse Dance Stage” known as a photo zone in U-Street and the subway Gangnam Station, Shinsa-dong’s “Tree-lined Street” known as the fashion hub, and Cheongdam-dong’s “Luxury Goods Shopping Street.”
The Gangnam-gu Office recently attached QR codes to pedestrian street blocks for the foreign and Korean visitor convenience, a first in Korea. These QR codes are now installed on blocks surrounding COEX and along the “Tree-lined Street” on a trial basis. By scanning these QR codes, visitors can have easy access to mobile Internet sites in English, Japanese and Chinese, allowing them to get information about location, shopping, restaurants, cafés and nearby tourist sites. We plan to gradually expand the number of QR-code blocks after reviewing results.
Q: Please tell us more about your efforts to promote culture and tourism.
A: Foreign visitors contribute a lot to the economy of Gangnam-gu District. When I took office, I clearly recognized the importance of tourism. So the Gangnam-gu District Office has actively promoted overseas marketing.
Along with the recent “Gangnam Style” fever, the Gangnam-gu District Office set up a new department, as of November 1 2012, dedicated to building systematic and professional tourism infrastructure, and aiming to attract as many foreign tourists as possible.
Since then, we have established a master plan for the promotion of tourism and expanded accommodation, including home-stay programs and tourist hotels.
The Horse Dance Stage in the Gangnam subway station provides foreign and Korean visitors with things to enjoy. Visitors can also enjoy Gangnam on a tour bus that operates three times a week.
We will also increase the promotion of tourism by connecting tourism to the “Korean Wave” (popularity of Korean culture overseas).”
We plan to build a one-kilometer-long street of Hallyu Stars in order to make Gangnam the hub of Hallyu toursim. This street will be connected to Apgujeong-dong’s Rodeo Street and the “Tree-lined Street”, to help tourists enjoy beauty, fashion and sightseeing together. Now we are thinking of theme travel in regards to Hallyu tourism
Construction work for the tourism information center linked to the Street of Hallyu Stars is proceeding smoothly. The information center will have themes for medical tourism and Hallyu tourism. We expect it will provide high-quality information to foreign visitors in the Gangnam-gu District.