Oct. 15 marks the 12th anniversary of the opening the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) Authority. In Aug. 2003, three regions – Songdo, Yeongjong, and Cheongna – were designated as the first free economic zones (FEZ) in Korea, with the goal of seeking a new growth engine and strengthening national competitiveness.
The share of IFEZ's foreign direct investment (FDI) among all eight free economic zones across the nation reached as high as 94 percent last year. In particular, international organizations such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the World Bank, the Association of World Election Bodies and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), all moved to the IFEZ.
In addition, the city hosts several foreign universities in its Songdo Global University Campus, including the State University of New York (SUNY), George Mason University, and the University of Utah, attracting the world’s attention as a “global education city.” Recently, the IFEZ authorities are seeking to build branch campuses of China’s Peking University and Tsinghua University.
Songdo has succeeded in attracting a total of 25 biotechnology companies, inclduing Celltrion, Samsung BioLogics, Samsung Bioepis, and DM Bio, emerging as a mecca of the global biotech industry. It has now secured the world’s second largest bio-pharmaceutical production capacity for a single city.
Songdo has a production capacity of 330,000 liters, trailing Vacaville, California’s 340,000 liters by a narrow margin. When Samsung BioLogics, which has recently completed its No. 1 and 2 bio plant construction with a total annual capacity of 180,000 liters in Songdo, will build a third plant in the future, the city will secure the annual production capacity of 510,000 liters, which is the largest amount in the world, said the IFEZ authorities.
Not just Songdo, but other locations within the IFEZ such as Yeongjong and Cheongna International City have also gained a foothold to take the leap. The Yeongjong district held a groundbreaking ceremony last year for a casino entertainment complex called “Paradise Sega Sammy,” and is operating smoothly. Also, LOCZ Korea, a consortium of the Chinese company Lippo and American company Caesars Entertainment, is preparing to break ground for a casino in Yeongjong.
Recently, in particular, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism have selected six out of nine region candidates across the nation in Incheon in the evaluation of request for concepts (RFCs) for a casino-oriented resort. Accordingly, the city has high expectations of the review and final decision for the RFCs, which will be held at the end of this year.
The Chungna district is also seeking to become an international hub for financial services and tourism. Starting with the construction of an integrated data center, which is part of the first phase of the project to establish the Hana Financial Town in Cheongna International City, Hana Financial Group has recently pursued a plan in earnest. In 2017, when the integrated data center is completed, it will integrate all the human and material resources and IT infrastructure of all affiliates and subsidiaries of Hana Financial Group, including KEB Hana Bank, Hana Financial Investment Co., Ltd., and Hana Card.
As the first FEZ in Korea, the IFEZ is carrying out projects that are being attempted domestically for the first time. Songdo Central Park is the nation’s first seawater park. Also, Incheon Global Campus, created in the form of universities with competitive majors of the world's prestigious universities, including SUNY, is also the first education system to be attempted in the country. In addition, the Korean American Village is the nation’s first large project to be created for Korean-Americans who return to Incheon, the starting place of Korea immigration history.
Moreover, the IFEZ, which aims to create a Ubiquitous City (U-City), already established a “U-City-related strategy” five years before the enactment of the “Act of Ubiquitous City Construction.” The Hana Financial Town project in Cheongna International City is also the first project being attempted by a domestic financial company, while the IFEZ development model was exported to Ecuador, South America, for the first time in the country.
Officials said the IFEZ has unlimited potential, since it has superior global accessibility with Incheon International Airport and Incheon Port. The fact that the IFEZ and China’s Weihai City were designated as a “Korea-China Free Trade Agreement Economic Cooperation Demonstration Zone” shows the city has enormous potential for development, according to IFEZ authorities.
The FEZ was started in 2003 to be a hub city in Northeast Asia, and has shown remarkable growth since. As of Sept., the IFEZ has attracted 77 foreign investment companies and posted US$6.78 billion (7.68 trillion won) in the total FDI. In particular, it achieved US$1.71 billion (1.94 trillion won) of FDI last year, with 94 percent of US$1.82 billion (2.07 trillion won) in eight free economic zones in Korea.
At the opening game of the Presidents Cup 2015, which recently took place at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Songdo, Incheon, Jack Nicklaus said, “I am impressed with holding a historic tournament at the golf club created with my name. Songdo has made great advances compared to eight years ago when I visited the city.”
The Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) Authority Commissioner Lee Young-geun said, “We will keep attracting high-value-added service industries, such as education, medical care, tourism, and leisure activities, in the future. Also, we will make every effort to make the IFEZ the global business hub city.”