Busan City is transforming itself, led by Mayor Suh Byung-soo as its sixth mayor elected by popular vote. At the center of the transformation are Gijang County located in the eastern part of the city and Buk-gu, Saha-gu, Gangseo-gu and Sasang-gu in its western area.
The county, which is home Kori Unit 1, has become a nuclear-free zone. The first nuclear power plant in South Korea was permanently shut down on June 18 after its 40-year operation. This was done by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who promised during his election campaign to shut down every power plant in the country that has reached the end of its service life.
In the meantime, the East Busan Tourism Complex, also known as the Osiria Tourism Complex, is currently under construction in Gijang-eup at an investment of four trillion won. The project kicked off in 2006 and a total of 34 facilities, including a theme park, an aquarium, hotels and shopping malls, are scheduled to be housed in the complex with an area of 3.66 million square meters. Until the end of this month, 22 out of them have made their final decision to invest in the complex, nine are negotiating with the complex after deliberation, and the rest are planning to follow suit. The construction is scheduled to be completed in 2021.
When it comes to the western area, the mayor declared the Great Nakdong River Era upon taking office in order to accelerate its renovation. According to his Western Busan Global City Grand Plan, the Sasang Industrial Complex will be turned into a smart city while a series of development projects are underway in 437 square kilometer-zones in the four districts.
The plan is to listen to the voice of the citizens who criticized the local government as neglecting the western area and focusing on the eastern region and to turn Busan City into the linchpin of the south eastern part of the country by developing the rich potential of the western region. 50 projects in total have been or are slated to be launched and Busan City is expecting that these projects will turn itself into one of the 30 largest cities in the world and boost its per-capita income to at least US$50,000 by 2030. In short, the projects reflect the city’s efforts for internationalization, metropolitanization and balanced growth revolving around the Nakdong River.
Four projects have already been completed so far in fact, the two initial phases of the Myungji International New City Project, Phase 1-1 of the International Industrial Logistics City Project, the Jangnim Port Landmark Project, and the Busan Museum of Modern Art construction project to be specific. In addition, four previous studies have been completed with regard to basic planning for Busan World Expo 2030 and basic designs and planning for the Busan Global Tech Biz Center, the Advanced Shoe Industry Convergence Hub Center and the Western Busan Urban Regeneration Project. The same procedures are to be underway this year for 10 more: Gimhae New Airport construction; innovative industrial complex construction in Shinpyeong and Jangnim; Sasang Smart City; Special R&D District; Western Busan Administrative Complex; Urban Regeneration Town in western Busan; construction of another wing of the National Assembly Library of Korea; cultural complex construction in the Myungji District; Nakdong River One Festival; and Kim Dong-jin Culture Port.
The Gimhae New Airport is one of the biggest issues in the region. President Moon Jae-in himself promised the construction of an airport city and a gateway airport for the south eastern region of the country with regard to the airport. The idea is to respond to rapidly increasing air transportation demands and make use of it in the event of a disaster at the Seoul Incheon International Airport. The concept of the airport city is to integrate the Eco Delta City near the Gimhae New Airport with the Myungji International New City.
The basic development plan for the Gimhae New Airport is scheduled to be prepared for one year starting from July this year. Based on this plan, the airport will function as the gateway airport for the region and a replacement for the Seoul Incheon International Airport as promised by the Moon Jae-in government. The new airport is expected to be opened in 2026 as an around-the-clock facility after runway extension to 3,200 meters, preparation of metropolitan traffic networks to make it accessible within 90 minutes from anywhere in the region, development of the surrounding areas, and introduction of advanced cargo handling systems.
The ongoing transformation of Busan City is leading to positive effects on the regional economy. An increasing number of South Korean shoe manufacturers, which had to go to China and so on for labor cost reduction, are returning to the city these days. For example, outdoor shoe manufacturer Treksta recently announced that it comes back to the city after its 22-year-long production activities in China. This company is planning to build a smart factory in the Noksan National Industrial Complex next year. Additionally, two that have returned from China, three from the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, one from the Gyeonggi Province, one from Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, and three from the other regions in Busan City itself are scheduled to relocate to the shoe manufacturing complex of the Gangseo International Industrial Logistics Complex currently under construction. Industry experts are predicting that their return will revitalize the shoe industry of Busan, which used to lead the growth of the same industry of the country as a whole.
Rich infrastructure of the shoe industry of Busan is attracting more and more companies from Seoul and areas around the capital city, too. Descente, a Japanese sports clothing and accessories company, is working on a global R&D center in the Busan Jinhae Economic Zone at an investment of 35 billion won as well exactly for the same reason.
The mayor’s term ends in June 2018. He promised to create at least 200,000 decent jobs in the city by then. According to the municipal government, the number reached 126,100 at the end of last year.
It is concentrating on attraction of enterprises as well as job creation. Last year, it attracted Hyundai Global Service and a data center of Microsoft. That of Microsoft is the first data center of a global leading company in the city and Hyundai Global Service became the first large South Korean corporation in the city in nine years after it had attracted Samsung Motors in 1998. According to the Busan IT Industry Promotion Agency, Hyundai Global Service and the MS data center are expected to create 1,000 and 20,000 jobs in the city until 2022, respectively.
An increasing number of foreign tourists are visiting the city nowadays, too. In this context, the municipal government is going to join the international tourism expos scheduled for September to December this year in Guangzhou, Kunming and Shenzhen, China and provide presentations on tours in the city. In August, it opens a tourism office in Beijing for customized marketing. The same office is to be opened in Osaka, Japan in the previous month.
In Busan, the municipal government is hosting fam tours by inviting foreign government officials residing in South Korea, including those from Cambodia, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Morocco, Ethiopia, Paraguay and many more.
At the same time, it is attracting tourists by meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE). These days, the city is hosting a large number of MICE events as a leader of the industry and examples of the events include the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom World, game festivals, international film festivals and international fireworks festivals. “ITU Telecom World 2017, one of the largest information and communications technology expos in the world, kicks off in September in Busan City and it will let the world know the aspect of the city as a leading smart city,” the mayor mentioned.
ITU Telecom World 2017 is one of the follow-up projects of ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2014 along with the ITU Youth Forum, which was held in Busan City in 2016. The city is planning to keep working closely together with the ITU and participate in its projects for the establishment of a college and so on.